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Examiner
  • Lori Boyajian-O'Neill: Binge drinking might be reclassified

  • Hey, what’s a little drinking on the weekends? I deserve it. I need to unwind. I just finished the work week. I just finished finals. It’s happy hour and I intend on getting happy. These are commonly cited excuses for binge drinking, which many dismiss as normal behavior.

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  • Hey, what’s a little drinking on the weekends? I deserve it. I need to unwind. I just finished the work week. I just finished finals. It’s happy hour and I intend on getting happy. These are commonly cited excuses for binge drinking, which many dismiss as normal behavior.
    Whatever the rationalization, binge drinking may soon be categorized as mild alcoholism by healthcare professionals. Binge drinkers may take their place alongside hard core alcoholics under a new proposal, which has caused a stir among those who care for those with alcoholism.
    Binge drinking, what do you know? T or F?
    1. It is more prevalent among the wealthy than the poor.
    2. 70 percent of binge drinking occurs in those older than college age.
    3. Women binge drinkers outnumber men 2 to 1.
    The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is used for the classification of psychiatric conditions. Under the current DSM-IV, binge drinking is classified as “alcohol abuse” and hard core alcoholics under “alcohol dependence.” New DSM-V recommendations are to place binge drinking under “alcohol use disorder,” and consider them “mild alcoholics” within a broad category which would include “moderate and severe alcoholics.”
    Many healthcare professionals are not comfortable placing binge drinkers in the same broad category as hard core alcoholics, which may stigmatize them for life. Therein lies the controversy. The CDC reports that most binge drinkers are not alcohol dependent. Diagnoses such as “substance misuse” for binge drinkers and “addiction” for those addicted are also being proposed so as not to include binge drinkers among alcoholics.
    Binge drinking is defined as consuming alcohol to the point at which blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 grams percent or higher. This usually occurs when men consume 5 or more alcoholic drinks and women 4 or more on one occasion, typically within 2 hours. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (www.niaaa.nih.gov) reports that binge drinking is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. One study predicted that up to 40 percent of college students binge drink and may fit the new classification of “mild alcoholics.” The good news is that this is down 3 percent from 2003. According to the CDC over 70 percent of binge drinkers are older than 26 and typically have household incomes over $75,000. Men are twice as likely as women to be binge drinkers.
    Studies indicate that most college students who binge drink stop after graduation. It is estimated that about 5 percent of college graduates continue to binge drink after age 26.
    The effects of binge drinking are not controversial. There are higher incident rates of violence, rape and accidents among those who binge drink and long-term risks for cardiac and liver disease. About 20 percent of high school girls binge drink. Among high school seniors who report that they have consumed alcohol, about 62 percent of them describe binge drinking in the prior 30 days.
    Page 2 of 2 - Rockhurst High School is the only school in the Kansas City area which has developed a testing program for drugs and alcohol in an effort to detect substance abuse and curb binge drinking. Testing is through hair sample analysis and will begin Fall 2013. By any classification, binge drinking is a serious problem and early education a key to stopping this destructive pattern of alcohol use.
    Answers: 1. T; 2. T; 3. F.
    Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at lori.boyajian-oneill@hcahealthcare.com.
     
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