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On a Binge
Photo: Gruby Dolar
Binge drinking is in. Today, to show everyone you have arrived, you show how much you can drink at a party.  Not a beer or two, either. A whole six-pack, for starters. Sound like friends you know? Does that sound like you? You are one among many. There are 5.1 million binge drinkers between the ages of 12 and 20. Nearly half binge heavily – at least five times per month.

Binge drinking is more than a guy thing. Over half of the male students binge but a recent survey revealed that nearly 40% of women students in college had binged.

Binge drinking happens in the best colleges. At the University of Michigan, 51% of all students said they had a drinking binge within the last two weeks. A 2002 Harvard study revealed that 44% of all college students had had a binge less than two weeks before being asked if they had ever binge drank.

Russian Roulette

Drinking to excess seems harmless, but you are playing Russian roulette. Often the hammer comes down on an empty chamber, and nothing happens. Sometimes – enough to leave major messes – it sends a bullet flying.

Alcohol, a depressant, is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Drink, and parts of your brain shut down, starting with judgment. That is why people feel less inhibited when they drink. Drink enough alcohol quickly enough and other parts of your brain shut down – those affecting speech, vision, and motion. Your speech slurs when you drink too much, your vision may be blurred and it is difficult to walk in a straight line. Drink enough, and your brain’s respiratory center takes a nap – and stops telling your lungs to breathe. The good air in your lungs gets used up. You – dead drunk – lack the awareness to replace it. You go from being dead drunk to simply dead.

Forty-one percent of frequent binge drinkers participate in unplanned sexual activity. Your lack of judgment could end up as AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases or an unplanned pregnancy. Imagine what that will do to your social life – or the rest of your life.

Colleges with high binge drinking rates report 71% of the students have had their sleep or study disturbed by binge drinkers, 36% have been insulted, 23% have had an unwanted sexual advance, and 11% have been physically attacked by binge drinkers. Imagine the reactions of your fellow students if your binge drinking leads you into any of these behaviors.

Binge drinking makes you stupid. Drinking to excess destroys brain cells, especially those relating to memory and learning. It might be why 159,000 college freshmen drop out of college annually due to excessive alcohol use.

Binge drinking’s worst effects are reduced in high school. Most high school students still live with parents, reducing opportunities for binging. High school binge drinkers  – especially those that binge frequently – are three times more likely to binge drink in college.

What stops binge drinking? Age and judgment. Once students grow older than 21 they begin reducing their drinking. When they graduate and assume adult challenges, binge drinking belongs to the past. Adults, smart adults, choose not to drink.

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Written by Mark N Lardas. Reprinted with permission from Listen, November 2004. Copyright © 2012 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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