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Binge drinking especially affects women

Mark Hammontree

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According to a recent report issued by the Centers for Disease Control, college-aged women may be at a higher risk for long-term health issues related to alcohol use.

24 percent of women age 18 to 24 binge drink (defined as having four or more alcoholic drinks on one occasion) an average of three times a month, according to the CDC study. The report also highlights the issues and dangers that can arise from binge drinking, citing excessive drinking as the cause of about 23,000 deaths of women in the U.S. every year.

Delynne Wilcox of the department of health promotion at the Student Health Center said this report is important because it is the first to focus specifically on women with regards to binge drinking.

“As the study points out, women process alcohol differently from men,” Wilcox, assistant director of health planning and prevention, said. “They don’t have the same enzymes and lean-tissue-to-fatty-tissue ratios that men have, and that’s why it takes less alcohol to have a stronger effect on women.”

Wilcox said the percentage of college students who binge drink has remained at a fairly constant rate of 40 to 44 percent for 30 years. Although the CDC report did not distinguish college students from non-students in the 18-24 age bracket, Wilcox said the percentage seems to match up.

Binge drinking can lead to many health problems including cancer, heart disease, liver disease, unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, according to the CDC study. Additionally, drinking in excess while pregnant can lead to miscarriage or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Another study, authored by professors at Colgate University, suggests binge drinking is connected to a sense of campus status at many universities, which could result in higher rates of occurrence.

“Binge drinking is a symbolic proxy for high status in college,” Carolyn Hsu, co-author of the study, wrote in a press release. “It’s what the most powerful, wealthy and happy students on campus do. When lower-status students binge drink, they may be trying to tap into the benefits and the social satisfaction that those kids from high-status groups enjoy.”

Hsu said the findings also suggest binge drinking may be connected to the cultural climate of a campus.

“Drinking culture is campus specific, but our results suggest that binge drinking and social satisfaction may also be very much associated at similar predominately white colleges with high binge drinking rates, a large greek presence and a residential campus,” Hsu said.

Despite these findings, Meagan Bryant, executive press secretary of the student government association, the University and campus organizations have effectively combated the dangers of binge drinking.

“The University of Alabama has many outreach programs to teach students about the effects of alcohol and drugs,” Bryant said. “I agree that binge drinking can be a problem on college campuses, but I feel that The University of Alabama has many educational programs about binge drinking so that students can learn to live healthy lifestyles.”

Wilcox said the danger for young women comes from a lack of knowledge about safe drinking practices.

“People often do not realize just how much they’ve been drinking, especially in uncontrolled environments like house parties,” Wilcox said. “In bars the amount of alcohol in a single drink is regulated by law, but in a situation where students are preparing their own drinks, there is more danger of drinking more than you realize.”

According to Wilcox, eating a substantial meal before drinking and allowing adequate time for your body to process alcohol, at least an hour per drink, can help keep students who choose to drink safe.

“We have been working for seven years with our Strategic Health Teams and other organizations to increase awareness about safe drinking practices,” Wilcox said. “We have had incoming freshman students take the Alcohol Edu course since 2006.”

The University has resources set up to help students who feel they are struggling with issues stemming from drinking. The Women’s Resource Center provides services to female students who are victims of abuse, sexual assault or harassment, which can be related to alcohol use. Additionally, the Collegiate Recovery Community through the Student Health Center allows for students to rehabilitate themselves from addiction while remaining in school.

For Wilcox, the important thing to take away is that binge drinking is often the consequence of bad planning and poor judgment, and can easily be avoided.

“These young women need to be smart and aware of how much they are drinking,” Wilcox said. “They need to look out for each other.”

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Binge drinking especially affects women