Binge drinking

JIM O'NEILL

On paper, Cory, 19, a business
student from
Levittown, appeared to be a
model student and citizen.
He graduated in the top 15
percent of his large high
school, where he played
rugby and football in addition
to participating in the
theater program and being
a member of the debate
team. Funny, polite and
respectful, the tall, athletic
young man was well-liked
among his large group of
friends. In high school and
into his freshmen year of
college, he had been in a
steady relationship with a
girl he had been best friends
with since elementary
school.
The oldest of three children,
Cory will be the first
to tell you that his parents
were wonderful as he grew
up, that he always had a
very healthy and supportive
relationship with them.
His younger siblings looked
up into him, particularly his
younger brother Chad, and
he got to see his grandparents
and extended family
often.
So why is all this in the
past tense? Why all the
“looked, played, was” comments?
Because Cory, like
many people before him,
turned to alcohol for happiness.
Worse, like a growing
number of people- ranging
from middle school students
to adults and everyone
in between – Cory had a
victim of binge drinking a
little too much and a little
too often.
According to the National
Institute on Alcohol Abuse
and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
binge drinking is defined
“as a pattern of drinking
that brings a person’s blood
alcohol concentration (BAC)
to 0.08 grams percent or
above. This typically happens
when men consume 5
or more drinks, and when
women consume 4 or more
drinks, in about 2 hours.”
When engaging in drinking,
90 percent of people under
21 binge-drink; 75 percent
of people over 21 do.
What has led to such high
levels of binge-drinking?
Ron Palmer, a drug and
alcohol abuse counselor in
Philadelphia says there are
a number of factors, particularly
affecting college age
students. “Being away from
home for the first time,
many students find the easiest
way to connect with
other people is through
drinking. It is a social activity.
With the rise of drinking
games such as Beer Pong
and Flip Cup, binge-drinking
in college becomes
about as common for most
as doing term papers.”
With pop culture becoming
more fixated on the
youth binge-drinking culture
(Bucks County native
Asher Roth speaks about it
in a song entitled “I Love
College”) it is easy for
adults to unfairly perceive
young people as the only
ones who binge-drink.
However, the truth is that
adults age 26-and older are
involved in 70 percent of all
drinking episodes involving
binge-drinking. While the
18-20 year old demographic
has the highest number of
drinkers who report bingedrinking
regularly (51 percent),
92 percent of adults
who said they drank excessively
in the past month
said it was from bingedrinking.
A dangerous and potentially
life-threatening social
activity, the most common
effects of binge-drinking
include injuries (both intentional
and unintentional)
and alcohol poisoning. Over
extended periods of time,
binge-drinking can lead to
liver damage, neurological
damage and sexual dysfunction.
It can also lead to sexually
transmitted diseases, a
growing concern about an
increasingly sexually-active
young adult society. “I got
really drunk one night, and
ended up spending the
night with this guy I didn’t
know,” Melanie, 20, a math
major from New Jersey
said. ‘A few weeks later, I
went because something
didn’t feel right. Turns out, I
had. well, an STD I’d
rather not name. I was mortified
with myself.”
Binge-drinking is, according
to the NIAAA, not usually
a sign of alcohol
dependency or alcoholism,
though 13 percent of people
who binge-drink reportedly
classify themselves in one of
those two category. In an
informal survey, 64 percent
of high-school students and
79 percent of college students
reported binge-drinking
at least once this year.
More males reported bingedrinking
than females, but
females tended to drink
more when they did bingedrink.
The number one factor
for both males and
females to binge-drink was
to fit in socially; number
two and three were “for
fun” and “to impress people
they like.”
Those are among the reasons
why Cory started
drinking, he said. “I wanted
to show-off. I was the man
on campus, so drinking was
something I felt I had to do.
Most weekends, I would be
drunk from Friday night to
Sunday morning.”
Cory doesn’t classify himself
as an alcoholic- “I can
control myself, man,” he
says defensively when
asked- but he does admit
that drinking has had harsh
effects on his life. “My girlfriend
and I broke up
because she didn’t like how
much I was drinking and
was worried about me, but I
wouldn’t listen,” he says,
eyes looking out the window
wistfully. “I started
fighting with my parents
more, my grades slipping at
school. I was starting to
drink four, five nights a
week and was too hungover
the next day to want to
do much else. It was bad.”
Four months ago, after
spending all night drinking,
he had a long talk with a
sober friend on the couch of
his buddy’s apartment at
Temple University. “He
basically sat me down and
said, ‘Cory, I love you man,
but you’re going to [screw]
up your whole life if you
keep going on like this.’ It
hit me hard that I had
already lost people I cared
about because of it, and let it
change who I was. I swore
to myself that night I would
change.”
In the time since, he hasn’t
touched a drop of alcohol,
nor does he plan on drinking
anytime soon. He has
improved his relationship
with his parents and is aiming
at making good enough
grades to get Dean’s List
this semester. He is also
working on getting his exgirlfriend
back into his life.
“She was right, you know. I
was drinking a lot, and I let
it get the better of me.
Drinking- especially when
you drink a lot real fastmight
seem cool to do, but if
you don’t control it. man,
it will mess up a person.”