Young People Ask . . .
What’s Wrong With Binge Drinking?
“Even though we had been drinking for several hours, my friend and I left the party at 1:00 a.m. with our own bottle of whiskey. We started walking home—drinking as we walked. The next thing I remember was the sun coming up, and I realized that we had been walking the wrong way. In fact, we had been walking along a major highway. It’s a miracle that we didn’t get hit.”—Clay.*
BINGE DRINKING. Some define it as simply drinking to get drunk. A report by the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism tried to be more specific. It said that binge drinking is “typically defined as consuming five or more drinks in a row for men, and four or more drinks in a row for women.”
Health officials in the United States call binge drinking “a major public health problem.” According to a study of secondary-school children in England, Scotland, and Wales, “up to a quarter of 13 and 14-year-olds claimed to have ‘downed’ at least five alcoholic drinks in a single session.” About half of all 15- and 16-year-olds surveyed said they had done the same.
In one U.S. study, 2 out of 5 college students had engaged in binge drinking at least once during the two weeks prior to the survey. According to the U.S. Department of Health, “about 10.4 million adolescents ages 12 to 20 reported using alcohol. Of those, 5.1 million were binge drinkers and included 2.3 million heavy drinkers who binged at least five times a month.” A study done in Australia revealed that more girls than boys in that land binge drink—consuming between 13 and 30 drinks a session!
Much of this drinking takes place at the urging of other youths. Reports researcher Carol Falkowski: “New and daring drinking games flourish: group activities with the goal of drinking alcohol to intoxication. Some, for example, require all players to drink a shot of distilled spirits at a specified moment of a TV show or group conversation.”
Binge Drinking—The Dangers
While heavy drinking may be considered a game to some, it is a very dangerous game! Excessive amounts of alcohol deprive the brain of oxygen; vital bodily functions can begin to shut down. Symptoms may include vomiting, unconsciousness, and slow or irregular breathing. In some cases death can result. About a month after graduating from high school, 17-year-old Kim went to an “all-you-can-drink” party. Kim consumed 17 drinks before passing out. Her older sister then came and took Kim home. The next morning, Kim’s mother found her dead.
Overdrinking may rarely cause death directly, but it still poses a health threat. “Alcohol can raise havoc with any organ in your body,” says mental-health expert Jerome Levin. “Alcohol’s favorite targets are the nervous system, the liver, and the heart.” Says an article in Discover magazine: “New research suggests that young drinkers are courting danger. Because their brains are still developing well into their twenties, teens who drink excessively may be destroying significant amounts of mental capacity.” Chronic alcohol consumption is also associated with increased acne, premature wrinkling of the skin, weight gain, damage to internal organs, alcohol dependency, and drug addiction.
There are other dangers associated with overdrinking. If you become drunk, you may be vulnerable to mistreatment. You can become the victim of physical assault or even rape. At the same time, you might well be a danger to others, engaging in out-of-control forms of behavior that you would not even consider if sober. The Bible thus warns that if you overdrink, “your own eyes will see strange things, and your own heart will speak perverse things.” (Proverbs 23:33) Painful consequences can include ruined friendships, poor performance at school and work, a criminal record, and poverty.*—Proverbs 23:21.
The Pressure to Drink
Despite such dangers, alcohol is heavily promoted and readily available in many lands. In fact, drinking alcohol is glamorized in TV and magazine advertisements. More often, though, young people succumb to binge drinking as a result of peer pressure.
In an alcohol awareness survey taken in Australia, 36 percent of the young ones questioned said that they drank primarily “to fit in at social activities.” In the chaotic atmosphere of a “beer bash,” an otherwise shy person can become the life of the party as his peers urge him to down drink after drink. Young Katie was brought home in a coma after doing so. Her “friend” had given her alcohol, saying: “Come on, Katie, you’re a big girl now. You should learn to chug it.”
The desire to have a good time and to fit in with others is so powerful that despite compelling evidence that binge drinking is dangerous, it continues to be popular.
What Choice Will You Make?
The questions arise: What choices will you make when it comes to drinking? Will you simply follow your peers? Remember what the Bible says at Romans 6:16: “Do you not know that if you keep presenting yourselves to anyone as slaves to obey him, you are slaves of him because you obey him?” If you let your peers control your every move, you become nothing more than a slave to them. The Bible urges you to think for yourself. (Proverbs 1:4) It contains advice that can help you to avoid making serious mistakes. Consider what it has to say about alcohol.
Actually, the Bible does not condemn drinking alcohol, nor is it against young people having a good time. However, it does warn against overdrinking. “Wine is a ridiculer, intoxicating liquor is boisterous, and everyone going astray by it is not wise,” says Proverbs 20:1. Yes, alcohol can make one act in a ridiculous and loud way! True, it may momentarily bring you pleasure, but if you overindulge, it “bites just like a serpent,” leaving you with a host of physical and emotional injuries.—Proverbs 23:32.
Something else to consider is that in many countries there is a minimum age for drinking alcohol. Christians obey such laws. (Titus 3:1) They are there to protect you.
Finally, and most important, consider the spiritual damage overdrinking can cause. Jehovah God wants you to serve him with “your whole mind”—not a mind needlessly damaged by overindulgence in alcohol! (Matthew 22:37) God’s Word condemns not only “excesses with wine” but also “drinking matches.” (1 Peter 4:3) Engaging in binge drinking is therefore counter to the will of our Creator. Such excess can prevent one from enjoying a close relationship with God.
What should you do if binge drinking has caught you in its snare? Get help immediately by speaking to a parent or a mature Christian.* Go to Jehovah God in prayer and beg for his help. After all, he is “a help that is readily to be found during distresses.” (Psalm 46:1) Since binge drinking and underage drinking often result from peer pressure, you may need to make substantial changes in your choice of friends and entertainment. Making such changes will not be easy, but with Jehovah’s help you can succeed.
Some of the names have been changed.
According to one U.S. study, “frequent binge drinkers were eight times more likely than non-binge drinkers to miss a class, fall behind in schoolwork, get hurt or injured, and damage property.”
In some cases the assistance of a trained medical professional may be needed.
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Binge Drinking—Tragic Statistics
The following statistics reveal the sad consequences of binge drinking among college students in the United States:
Death: Each year 1,400 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes
Injury: 500,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are unintentionally injured when under the influence of alcohol
Assault: More than 600,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking
Sexual Abuse: More than 70,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape
Source: The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
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Peers may urge you to binge drink