“Even though we had been drinking for several hours, my friend and left the party at 1:00 a.m. with our own bottle of whiskey. We started walking home –drinking as we walked. The next thing I remember was the sun coming up, and I realized that we had been walking the wrong way. In fact, we had been walking along a major highway. It’s a miracle that we didn’t get hit.”-Emmy.
Some define it as simply drinking to get drunk. A report by the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism tried to be more specific. It said that binge drinking is “typically defined as consuming five or more drinks in a row for men, and four or more drinks in a row for women”
Health officials in the United States call binge drinking “a major public health problem.” According to a study of secondary-school children in England, Scotland, and Wales, “up to a quarter of 13 and 14-year-olds claimed to have ‘downed’ at least five alcoholic drinks in a single session.” About half of all 15- and 16-year-olds surveyed said they had done the same.
In one U.S. study, 2 out of 5 college students had engaged in binge drinking at least once during the two weeks prior to the survey. According to the U.S. Department of Health, “about 10.4 million adolescents ages 12 to 20 reported using alcohol.
Of those, 5.1 million were binge drinkers and included 2.3 million heavy drinkers who binged at least five times a month. A study done in Australia revealed that more girls than boys in that land binge drink –consuming between 13 and 30 drinks a session!
Much of this drinking take place at the urging of other youths. Reports researcher Carol Falkowski: “New and daring drinking games flourish: group activities with the goal of drinking alcohol to intoxication. Some, for example, require all players to drink a shot of distilled spirits at a specified moment of a T.V show or group conversation.”
Ethanol, the chemical compound present in most alcoholic drinks, is a neurotoxin –that is, a substance that can damage or destroy the nervous system. Someone who is drunk is, in fact, suffering from a form of poisoning. In large quantities ethanol causes coma and death.
For instance, among students in Japan, the practice of Ikkinomi, or alcohol chugging, causes deaths every year. The body is able to convert ethanol into harmless substances, but this is not accomplished immediately. If alcohol is consumed at a faster rate than the body can handle it, ethanol builds up in the system and begins to interfere noticeably with brain function. In what way?
VISION, SPEECH, COORDINATION, THOUGH, and BEHAVIOR are all connected with an incredibly complex series of chemical reactions in the brain’s neurons, or key cells. The presence of ethanol modifies those reactions, suppressing or enhancing the role of certain neurotransmitters –chemicals that relay signals from neuron to neuron.
The stream of information in the brain is thus altered, preventing the brain from functioning normally. That is why when a person drinks too much, he or she develops slurred speech, blurred vision, sluggish movement, and weakened behavioral restraints and inhibitions –all common symptoms of intoxication.
With prolonged exposure to alcohol, brain chemistry adapts to counter the poisonous effect of ethanol and to maintain normal nerve function. This leads to tolerance, whereby the same amount of alcohol has less of an effect than it would have had previously.
Dependence occurs when the brain has adapted so much to the presence of alcohol that it cannot operate properly without it. The body craves alcohol to maintain the chemical balance. When a person is deprived of alcohol, his brain chemistry is totally destabilized and withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, trembling, or even seizures, set in.
Besides causing modifications of brain chemistry, alcohol abuse can lead to cell atrophy and destruction, altering the brain’s very structure. While partial recovery is possible with abstinence, some of this damage seems to be irreversible.
Neurons that die are apparently never replaced, further affecting memory and other cognitive functions. Damage to the brain is not just the result of long-term exposure to alcohol. Research seems to indicate that even relatively short periods of alcohol abuse can be harmful.
BINGE DRINKING - THE DANGERS
While heavy drinking may be considered a game to some, it is a very dangerous game! Excessive amount of alcohol deprive the brain of oxygen; vital bodily functions can begin to shut down. Symptoms may include vomiting, unconsciousness, and slow or irregular breathing.
In some cases death can result. About a month after graduating from high school, 17-year-old Ese went to an “all-you-can-drink” party. Ese consumed 18 drinks before passing out. Her older sister then came and took Ese home. The next morning, Ese’s mother found her dead.
Overdrinking may rarely cause death directly, but it still poses a health threat. “Alcohol can raise havoc with any organ in your body,” says mental-health expert Jerome Levin. “Alcohol’s favorite targets are the nervous system, the liver, and the heart.” Says an article in Discover magazine: “New research suggests that young drinkers are courting danger.
Because their brains are still developing well into their twenties, teens who drink excessively may be destroying significant amounts of mental capacity. Chronic alcohol consumption is also associated with increased acne, premature wrinkling of the skin, weight gain, damage to internal organs, alcohol dependency, and drug addiction.
There are other dangers associated with overdrinking. If you become drunk, you may be vulnerable to mistreatment. You can become the victim of physical assault or even rape. At the same time, you might well be a danger to others, engaging in out-of-control forms of behavior that you would not even consider if sober. The painful consequences can include ruined friendships, poor performance at school and work, a criminal record, and poverty.
THE PRESSURE TO DRINK
Despite such dangers, alcohol is heavily promoted and readily available in many lands. In fact, drinking alcohol is glamorized in TV and magazine advertisements. More often, though, young people succumb to binge drinking as a result of peer pressure.
In an alcohol awareness survey taken in Australia, 36 percent of the young ones questioned said that they drank primarily “to fit in at social activities.” In the chaotic atmosphere of a “beer bash,” an otherwise shy person can become the life of the party as his peers urge him to down drink after drink.
Young Katie was brought home in a coma after doing so. Her “friends” had given her alcohol, saying: “Come on, Katie, you are a big girl now. You should learn to chug it.” The desire to have a good time and to fit in with others is so powerful that despite compelling evidence that binge drinking is dangerous, it continues to be popular.
According to one U.S. study, “frequent binge drinkers were eight times more likely than non-binge drinkers to miss a class, fall behind in schoolwork, get hurt or injured, and damaged property.”
BINGE DRINKING –TRAGIC STATISTICS
The following statistics reveal the sad consequences of binge drinking among college student in the United States:
1. DEATH: Each year 1,400 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes.
2. INJURY: 500,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured when under the influence of alcohol.
3. ASSAULT: More than 600,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
4. SEXUAL ABUSE: More than 70,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.