Binge drinking epidemic

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PHOENIX -- You may have heard about a recent study showing binge drinking is a bigger problem in the United States than previously thought. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey found 38 million Americans (one in six of us) binge drink four times a month, to the tune of eight drinks on each occasion.

That's alarming enough, but consider this statistic: Nearly 44 percent of college students are binge drinkers, meaning two out of every five students consume 4 to 5 alcoholic drinks in under two hours. The risks that go with this behavior are considerable: impaired judgment that can lead to car accidents, violence, and effects on health including alcohol poisoning, certain cancers, heart disease, sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies. The college kegger starts to look like not so much fun after all.

It begs the question, what's motivating this group of "party animals"? Talking with a handful of 20-somethings I know provides some insights. I heard stories about intense pressure at college parties to get sloppy drunk -- even marking a notch on your hand for each drink consumed. And apparently the local bar scene is a hornet's nest of binge-til-you-pukers. From what I hear, it's one of those "new normals" -- just sort of expected -- as a social lubricant and an acceptable, even encouraged, way to cut loose and let off steam. And of course at that age, we are all invincible, so the prospect of anything from a scarred liver to death just isn't relevant.

Here's a link to that CDC study: www.cdc.gov