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College 101: Binge Drinking

August 02, 2013  |  Falmouth Enterprise

By Dr. Michael Bihari

Our role as parents do not stop when we drop our kids off for freshman orientation. Colleges and universities across the country are dealing with significant underage drinking and substance abuse, especially binge drinking.

It’s important that you learn about alcohol use at the college your teen is attending. Schools vary in what they communicate to incoming students and how they handle such issues as underage drinking. 

Please share this article with your college-bound teen.

On July 28 the Boston Globe ran a front page story with the following headline, “Dartmouth Tackles Binge Drinking Culture.” This article details changes being made at Dartmouth to decrease hospitalizations related to alcohol abuse and underscores the serious national problem of binge drinking.   

The ABCs of Binge Drinking

The following information is from the American College of Cardiology:

  • A binge is defined as: 5 drinks in 2 hours for men and 4 drinks in 2 hours for women.
  • Binge drinking in your early 20s damages circulation now, which may later trigger a stroke or heart attack.
  • College students report binge drinking an average of 6 times a month.

Students age 18 to 25 years old have the highest rates of binge drinking, with more than half engaging in binge drinking on a regular basis. It is one of the most serious health issues confronting our college campuses, and heavy drinking on college campuses has become more pervasive and damaging. 

Binge drinking is dangerous! It increases the chances of heart disease, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, and many other health problems and risky behaviors, such as unintentional injuries, violence, and alcohol dependence.

Binge drinking can harm learning and memory! After a night of partying and binge drinking, it is not uncommon for a college student to wake up with a hangover and not much memory of the past evening’s events. Binge drinking may impair memory in young people long after the hangover has worn off, perhaps because of damage to the hippocampus, a region in the brain involved in learning.

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is the most life-threatening result of binge drinking. If young adults drink too much and get alcohol poisoning, it affects their body's involuntary reflexes — including breathing and the gag reflex. If the gag reflex is not working properly, students can choke to death on their vomit. Other signs of alcohol poisoning include extreme confusion, inability to be awakened, vomiting, seizures, and slow or irregular breathing.

You should encourage your college-bound teen to be a “hero” and to save a friend's life by calling for help if a classmate has had a dangerous amount of alcohol. The following message may be a good start for a discussion about the issue:

“Your friend who had way too much to drink, may not just be sleeping it off. If he or she is suffering from acute alcohol poisoning, as a result of drinking too much too quickly, he or she could die if you do not intervene. First call 911 immediately. Do not hesitate, don't think about any legal ramifications, your friend's life could depend on your quick response.”


College Drinking: Changing the Culture, created by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. CollegeDrinkingPrevention.gov is an in-depth resource for comprehensive research-based information on issues related to alcohol abuse and binge drinking among college students

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