Binge Drinking by the Numbers (citations)

Despite the 21 year-old drinking age law, large numbers of young people under 21 are drinking, and often they are drinking heavily.
  • 18-20 year olds experienced a 56% increase in binge drinking between 1993 and 2001.1
  • More than 90% of all alcohol consumed by underage drinkers is consumed during binge drinking.2
  • College students experienced a nearly 10% increase in the rate of drinking to get drunk between 1993 and 2001, which corresponded to an increase in consequences like injuries and assaults, and treatment for alcohol overdose.3
These alarming rates have serious and even life-threatening implications for young people and the rest of society
  • Over 1,000 lives of 18-24 year-olds are lost annually to alcohol off the highways, a figure that has been increasing since 1998.4
  • Approximately one in six teenagers has experienced ‘black out’ spells where they could not remember what happened the previous evening as a result of heavy alcohol use.5
  • Among college students specifically, alcohol annually contributes to some 1,700 deaths, 599,000 injuries, and 97,000 cases of sexual assault.6
  • Sixty percent of the deaths that occur as a result of underage drinking happen off the highways.7
All of this is happening in the face of a law that says until you’re 21, you may not drink. The 21 year-old drinking age has been in place for nearly 25 years, and we are still facing an environment where drinking by people under 21 is the norm. These disturbing rates of law breaking and binge drinking should serve as a call to action for parents, educators, and lawmakers. We must work together to revisit this law and all the issues that have created this destructive culture.

 

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1 Naimi, T.S., Brewer, R.D., Mokdad, A., Denny, C., Serdula, M., & Marks, J.S. (2003). Binge drinking among U.S. Adults. Journal of the American Medical Association, 289(1), 70-75.

2 Institutes of Medicine. (2003). Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility. Washington: National Academies Press.

3 Wechsler, H., Lee, J.E., Kuo, M., Seibring, M., Nelson, T.F. & Lee, H. (2002). Trends in college binge drinking during a period of increased prevention efforts: Findings from 4 Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study surveys 1993-2001. Journal of American College Health, 50(5), 203-217.

4 Hingson, R., Hereen, T., Winter, M., Weschler, H. (2005). Magnitude of alcohol related mortality and morbidity among US college students ages 18-24: Changes from 1998 to 2001. Annual Review of Public Health, (26), 259-279.

5 American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP Releases New Findings on Teens and Underage Drinking, Washington, D.C., 1998.

6 Hingson, R., Hereen, T., Winter, M., Weschler, H. (2005). Magnitude of alcohol related mortality and morbidity among US college students ages 18-24: Changes from 1998 to 2001. Annual Review of Public Health, (26), 259-279.

7 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2006). Alcohol Alert #67: Why do adolescents drink, what are the risks, and how can underage drinking be prevented . Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.