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Binge Drinking is Common Among High School Students

Armen Hareyan's picture

Teen Drinking

Binge drinking is common among high school students in the United States and is strongly associated with sexual activity, violence, and other risky behaviors, according to a new study, Binge Drinking and Associated Health Risk Behaviors Among High School Students, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published in the January 2007 issue of Pediatrics.

The study analyzed data from the 15,214 high school students who completed the 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. CDC scientists found 45 percent of the students reported past-month alcohol consumption, and 64 percent of students who drank reported binge drinking (defined as having five or more drinks of alcohol in a row). High school boys and girls who drank alcohol had similar rates of binge drinking ? 67 percent and 61 percent, respectively. Among students who engaged in binge drinking, 69 percent reported doing so on more than one occasion in the past 30 days.

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The researchers also found that the likelihood of engaging in other risk behaviors - including sexual activity, smoking, and physical fighting - was greater for binge drinkers than for drinkers who did not binge and for nondrinkers.

"Our study clearly shows that it's not just that students drink alcohol, but how much they drink that most strongly affects whether they experience other health and social problems," said Dr. Jacqueline Miller, Medical Officer on the CDC's Alcohol Team and the lead author of the report. "It also underscores the importance of implementing effective strategies to prevent underage and binge drinking, such as enforcing the minimum legal drinking age and reducing alcohol marketing to youth, which can help us change social norms regarding the acceptability of underage and binge drinking."

Compared to nondrinkers, drinkers who did not binge drink were more than twice as likely to be sexually active; more than four times as likely to smoke cigarettes; and more than twice as likely to have been in a physical fight. And the likelihood was greater still for binge drinkers. Binge drinkers were more than five times as likely as non-drinkers to be sexually active; more than 18 times as likely to smoke cigarettes; and more than four times as likely to have been in a physical fight. The likelihood of engaging in these and other risky behaviors, including marijuana use and suicide attempts, increased with the frequency of binge drinking. Binge drinking was also strongly associated with poor school performance.

For more information about alcohol and binge drinking, visit the CDC's Division of Adult and Community Health's Web site at www.cdc.gov/alcohol/index.htm