In a recent online published study, The number of drinks ingested in high school aged teenagers binge drinking can predict other health risk behaviors, according to Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
Using data from a 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Study, Ralph Hingson, Sc.D., M.P.H., and Wenxing Zha, Ph.D., both from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Bethesda, Md, released their findings earlier this month. Over 15,000 students in grades 9 through 12 were polled and addressed questions that assessed their underage drinking habits with other health risk behaviors. Adolescent binge drinking was twice what the average age and gender specific average thresholds showed and twice the average consumption of a non-binge drinker.
Researchers found that 7% of the 15,000 + high schoolers binge drank at least twice, Which fell 9% below the average age/gender specific thresholds of legal aged adults. Overall only 14% drank less than binge thresholds. Those who reported higher binge drinking habits were subject to risky sexual and traffic behaviors, illegal drug and tobacco use, more physical fights, less school night sleep, poorer school grades and higher suicide percentages than binge drinking in those who drank twice less than the thresholds of other drinkers.
“Adolescent alcohol misuse screening should query the maximum number of drinks consumed per occasion and frequency of such consumption,” the authors write.
Student athlete boys posed higher risk to binge drinking, and boys who played three sports or more had admitted to binge drinking over 22.5% percent, meaning 5 drinks or more at a time. 8.7% say they had participated in extreme binge drinking, meaning 10 or more.
Binge drinking is not a high school specific problem, a study from 2017 showed that almost 32 million American adults admitted to extreme binge drinking. Extreme binge drinking meaning drinking 8 to 10 alcoholic beverages in a single sitting. This number has increased since the 2012-2013 year, which was reporting the highest extreme binge drinking numbers in 10 years.
“This important study reveals that a large number of people in the United States drink at very high levels and underscores the dangers associated with such ‘extreme’ binge drinking,” said George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
“Of the nearly 90,000 people who die from alcohol each year, more than half, or 50,000, die from injuries and overdoses associated with high blood alcohol levels.”
Binge drinking is defined as someone having 4 or more drinks on one occasion for women, and 5 or more for men.
Binge drinking levels start at “level one” which is the majority of binge drinkers and includes 4 to 7 drinks in one sitting for women (27% reported), and 5 to 9 drinks for men, (39% reported). “Level two” which 11% of men reported drinking 10 – 14 beverages at a time. Seven percent of men reported “level three” drinking, 15 or more drinks at a time. Only 5% of women were at the “level three” portion of binge drinking, consuming between 8 to 11 drinks, and only 3% reported drinking more than 12 drinks at once in the past year.
Adult binge drinkers are also exposed to similar dangerous risky behaviors, such as their likelihood to visit an emergency room, be diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder, drive a vehicle intoxicated, hurt themselves due to drinking or deal with legal issues resulting from their alcohol abuse.
Risks were increased when benzodiazepines were added to drinking. Benzodiazepines commonly have severe reactions when mixed with alcohol, the anti-anxiety medications can cause users to experience a “black out” while still remaining “Awake”.
Extreme binge drinking is particularly common in people who use other drugs. While severe binge drinking is severe enough to suppress areas of the brain that control basic life functions like breathing and consistent heart rate, common medications like Xanax or Valium can worsen binge drinking effects, resulting in death.