Binge drinking among adolescents: A public health concern

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1337577_56522667Drinking among adolescents has long been on the radar as a public health concern. This is especially concerning when it comes to binge drinking, which in addition to potentially causing injury, impaired driving and alcohol poisoning, can also lead to liver damage, alcohol dependence and alterations in the brains of adolescents. And a new study published in JAMA shows that this should be a concern, given the prevalence of drinking among adolescents.

Dr. Megan E. Patrick of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and colleagues conducted a study looking at the prevalence of binge drinking among high school students, as well as whether certain factors were associated with a greater likelihood of binge drinking. The definition used for binge drinking was the consumption of five or more drinks and extreme binge drinking was defined as the consumption of ten or more drinks in a row. Researchers surveyed about 16,000 high school students and found that about 20 percent of seniors reported binge drinking in the past two weeks and about 16 percent reported extreme binge drinking. Researchers also found that men were more likely to report binge drinking compared to women and white students were more likely to report binge drinking than black students. Furthermore, students whose parents had a college education were more likely to report binge drinking. And although the frequency of binge drinking, and of drinking in general among adolescents has steadily decreased since the 1980s, the frequency of extreme binge drinking has not followed the same trend.

Researchers highlight the fact that further research should look at a wider range of risk factors for binge drinking such as family, school community, genetic and mental health. They add, The documented rates of extreme binge drinking, and the fact that they have not changed across recent historical time, support the need for additional research to develop effective prevention and intervention strategies to reduce high-risk alcohol behaviors of youth.