College and university classes have resumed, the collegiate football season is underway, and campus activities are in full swing. Young people, especially in college settings, have long been known for partying and occasionally over-drinking. This excessive drinking, however, is not just fun and games. Binging can lead to health problems, risky behaviors, black outs and sexual assaults. According to the CDC, this is especially true for women. A recent CDC survey found college-age women are more likely to binge drink than their male counterparts, and nearly 14 million women binge drink an average of three times a month, consuming an average of six drinks per episode.
“Iowa’s binge drinking rate (28.6 percent among Iowans age 12 and older) is significantly higher than the national average of 23.5 percent,” said Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) Substance Abuse Prevention Bureau Chief DeAnn Decker. “This may be because Iowans have a much lower perception of its danger than the national average.” Binge drinking can lead to health problems like heart disease, certain types of cancers, sleeping disorders and liver disease. Of equal or greater concern, however, is the immediate and devastating impact binge drinking can have on an individual.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:
- 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes.
- 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
- 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
- 400,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 had unprotected sex and more than 100,000 report having been too intoxicated to know if they consented to having sex.
Alcohol poisoning can cause death. A person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can continue to rise even while he or she is passed out. Even after a person stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. It is dangerous to assume the person will be fine by sleeping it off. Critical signs of alcohol poisoning include:
- Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or person cannot be roused.
- Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute).
- Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths).
- Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness.
Prevention of binge drinking is a priority issue for the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant, funded by SAMHSA. Currently, 23 Iowa counties are implementing strategies to reduce binge drinking among young adults. To learn about the counties participating in the grant, and Iowa’s strategic plan to address binge drinking, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/spfsig/counties.asp. The Iowa Substance Abuse Information Center has additional information about substance abuse prevention and recovery at www.drugfreeinfo.org.