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Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at
(847) 498-5611.

Learn how to prevent and recover from chemical dependency as well as the aftereffects of chemical dependency on you and your family. Read Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. series of Recovery books.


What is Binge Drinking?


D
ear Dr. Steve:

I’m concerned about my nineteen-year old son. He’s a freshman in college. He recently was arrested for underage drinking on campus. This is his fourth alcohol related arrest in the last two years. First he was arrested for disorderly conduct at a frat party. Next he was arrested for attempting to steal a case of beer from a convenience store. A third time he was arrested for a DWI. The problem is that he insists that he doesn’t have a problem with alcohol because he doesn’t drink that often. I agree with the part that he doesn’t drink that often. He lives at home and it’s easy to tell when he’s under the influence of alcohol. However, I insist that he does have a problem with alcohol because the times that he does get into trouble are the times when he’s under the influence of alcohol. What do you think? 

I agree with you. You don’t have to be an alcoholic in order to have a problem with alcohol. You don’t have to drink everyday in order to have a problem with alcohol. The criteria I use to determine whether somebody has a problem with alcohol and other drugs is the following: Does a person continue to drink despite experiencing adverse financial, legal, social, occupational, and interpersonal consequences from their use of alcohol and other drugs?

There are three types of alcohol and other drug problems that we focus on: 1.) Binge drinking, 2.) Alcohol and other drug abuse, and 3.) Alcohol and other drug dependence. For the sake of what may be relevant to your son’s drinking, let’s discuss binge drinking.

Binge drinking is defined as the consumption of five or more drinks in a row on at least one occasion. Binge drinking may result in an overdose of alcohol or alcohol
poisoning—a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Binge drinking increases the risk for alcohol-related injury, especially for young people, who often combine alcohol with other high-risk activities, such as impaired driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the four leading injury-related causes of death among youths under the age of 20 are: 1.) Motor vehicle crashes, 2.) Homicides, 3.) Suicides, and 4.) Drowning. Alcohol is involved in many of these deaths.

While national surveys have documented a significant decline in the use of other drugs by high school seniors and college-age youths, there have been only modest declines in the numbers reporting binge drinking. In national surveys about a third of high school seniors and 42 percent of college students reported at least one occasion of binge drinking within the previous 2 weeks. Binge drinking increases the risk for alcohol-related injury, especially for young people, who often combine alcohol with other high-risk activities, such as impaired driving. Researchers from the Harvard University School of Public Health published survey results from a study of 17,600 students at 150 colleges and universities. Among the findings:

1.) 44 percent of students binge drank during the two weeks preceding the survey. (For men, binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in a row; for women, it's four drinks in a row.)

2.) Half of binge drinkers reported at least three episodes of binge drinking within a two-week period.

3.) Among men, 62 percent of frequent binge drinkers reported driving under the influence of alcohol at least once; for women who frequently binge drank, the figure was 49 percent.

4.) Students in fraternities and sororities were four times more likely to binge drink than other students.

Binge drinking can produce serious consequences and undermine student success. According to the Core Institute at Southern Illinois University, 29 percent of college students surveyed during 1995 and 1996 complained that drinking on campus interrupted their studying. Sixty-four percent of students who experienced physical violence were under the influence of alcohol at the time. Among students who experienced unwanted sexual intercourse, 79 percent had been drinking.

Sexual encounters with their inherent risks of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV exposure, as well as date rape and other violence, can and do occur more frequently while students are consuming large amounts of alcohol by binge drinking.

You letter provides significant evidence that your son does have an alcohol and other drug problem. However, it is critical that you seek the informed opinion of a qualified healthcare provider.


Learn how to prevent and recover from chemical dependency as well as the aftereffects of chemical dependency on you and your family. Read Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. series of Recovery books—From Insanity to Serenity.

Pathfinder’s Checklist

1.) Educate your child about the dangers of binge drinking.
2.) Have your child evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
3.) Consult with a qualified healthcare provider about a plan of action necessary for helping your child deal with his alcohol and other drug problem.
4.) Attend Al-Anon meetings so that you can learn as much as possible about how family members can best cope with a family member who has an alcohol and other drugs problem.

G.B.U.

Steve



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