Underage Drinking

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In May 2008, students at Colby College, a private institution in Maine, celebrated "Senior Champagne on the Steps," a tradition in which graduates drink champagne on the steps of the administration building. The event ended with 20 graduates at the local emergency room, with 17 being treated for alcohol poisoning.

Binge drinking has been generally defined as the prolonged use of alcohol (usually for two or more days) while giving up normal responsibilities and activities in order to become intoxicated. Officially, the National Institutes of Health defines binge drinking as "a pattern of drinking that brings a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above." This level of BAC can result from five or more drinks consumed in two hours for men and four or more for women..

The classic example of a binge drinker is the college student who refrains from using alcohol until classes are over for the week, then spends his weekend drinking as much as possible. He might have a hangover on Monday morning, but for all intents and purposes, he appears fine. Similar stereotypes might be provided of high school students or 20-something adults engaging in binge drinking. In reality, binge drinking occurs among all age groups. The problem is important enough that the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and other groups have undertaken studies of binge drinking.

Studies of binge drinking have revealed interesting facts about who participates in this activity. First, most binge drinkers are not alcohol dependent; that is, they are not alcoholics in the usual sense of the word. Also, although binge drinking has always been associated with college students, surveys find that about 70% of binge drinking episodes involve individuals who are 25 years or older. About 75% of the alcohol consumed by adults over 21 is consumed as a part of binge drinking. Men are twice as likely as women to participate in binge drinking.

Although more...
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