Extreme drinking

  • Approximately 40 percent of college freshmen have self reported binge drinking, defined as four+ drinks per occasion for females and five+ drinks for males.
  • A new study reveals that, among males, 20 percent of all freshmen consume 10+ drinks, and eight percent consume 15+ drinks, per occasion.
  • Female students were far less likely than males to drink at such extreme levels.
Binge drinking consuming large amounts of alcohol in a relatively short period of time is generally defined as four+ drinks per occasion for females and five+ drinks for males. Although using this definition or threshold has provided invaluable insight into college drinking, new research has found that a considerable number of students, particularly males, drink well beyond the "standard" binge-drinking threshold. Results are published in the June issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"During the past decade, binge-drinking has been the primary focus of most research and public discourse about college alcohol use," said Aaron White, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center and first author of the study. "We know that when students cross the binge-drinking threshold, the risk of consequences goes up significantly things like accidents, fights, sexual assaults, blackouts, dying from an overdose, etc. However, one of the unfortunate consequences of this focus on binge drinking is that it sends the unintended message that drinking at any level below the threshold is safe and that all people are at equal risk once they cross the threshold. Clearly this is not the case. There is a huge difference between having four or 40 drinks, although both are defined as binge drinking."

"Previous research from this group has further suggested that college students may underestimate the numbers of drinks they have consumed," added Susan F. Tapert, associate professor


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