Extreme Binge Drinking Still A Favorite Pastime For High School Seniors
September 17, 2013

Extreme Binge Drinking Still A Favorite Pastime For High School Seniors

[ Watch the Video: Rampant Binge Drinking Among High School Teens ]

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Though binge drinking is common amongst high school students, a new study shows “extreme” binge drinking -- 10 or more drinks in a session -- remains a favorite pastime. It is now estimated nearly 10 percent of high school seniors are spending their year before college by extreme binge drinking once every two weeks.

The number of binge drinkers has declined significantly, but the number of extreme binge drinkers, who sometimes have upwards of 15 drinks in a session, have remained stable. Previous studies have looked at the level of binge drinking amongst college students, but few have measured this behavior in high-schoolers. The results of this study are published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

“The rates are alarming when you think of a class of 30 students, that several kids in the class will be drinking at very dangerous levels,” explained the leader of the study Megan Patrick, PhD, a public health researcher with the University of Michigan. “That’s a big cause for concern.”

Regular binge drinking, or having five or more drinks in a row, has been on a steady decline since the 70s and 80s where they were at record high levels. The number of high school binge drinkers is now around one in every five seniors, or about 18.1 percent in 2011. In 2005, 22 percent of seniors said they were binge drinkers.

What’s most unnerving for health officials is the unwavering number of high school seniors who say they regularly chug 10 to 15 drinks in one night. Of the seniors surveyed, 10.5 percent said they’d consumed 10 or more drinks in one night in the past two weeks. Another 5.6 percent said they had consumed 15 or more drinks in the same time period. The survey defined “a drink” as a 12-ounce beer, a 12-ounce wine cooler, four ounces of wine, a mixed drink or a shot of liquor.

Dr. Patrick and team analyzed surveys given to teenagers as a part of the University of Michigan’s role in the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Questionnaires about a student’s drinking and drug use were sent out to more than 16,000 high school seniors. The Institute only began adding questions about extreme binge drinking in 2005. Of these surveyed seniors, 52.3 percent were females, 64.5 percent were white, and 11 percent were black; 13.1 and 11.5 percent were Hispanic or described themselves as “other,” respectively.

The average high school senior binge drinker is a white male, and binge drinking is noticeably higher in the Midwest and other rural areas. Boys were more likely to binge drink at any level than girls, about 24.7 percent to 15 percent, while far more white students binge drink than black students. Seniors who had college educated parents didn’t mind binge drinking, but those students without college educated parents were more likely to engage in extreme binge drinking. The surveys also found seniors who had at least one 15-drink session in the past two weeks were also “significantly” more likely to try other drugs as well.

“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,” concludes the study.

The seniors also said they were more likely to go out and binge drink at any level when they had friends who did the same thing. This sort of follow-the-leader behavior was recently observed by USC researchers who found teenagers are more likely to smoke and drink when they see pictures of their friends doing the same thing on social networking sites.