Further Reading

What is the origin of the definition for binge drinking?

Could you please tell me the origin of the definition for binge drinking .. "5 or more drinks in a row....." I know that it was defined prior to Presley and Meilman's "Alcohol and Drugs on American College Campuses."

I don't know, but tell me when you find out!

Obviously, consuming 5 drinks over a couple of hours hardly comprises a binge. I have always seen the five-drink definition of bingeing in connection with student drinking. Since 1991, the Michigan "Monitoring the Future" study asks high students whether they have been drunk. The figures for 1995 seniors for being drunk in the prior 30 days (33%) resembles 5+ drinks in the prior two weeks (30%). Note also that Wechsler's studies on college "binge drinking" use 4+ drinks for women. Wechsler found (JAMA, Dec. 7, 1994) that 44% of college students indulge in binge-drinking thus defined.

For underage drinkers, this style of drinking is encouraged by the illegality of their actions, meaning they must consume all the alcohol in their possession before getting home. A remarkable study at Canada's ARF found that the small minority of underage drinkers (5%) who drank at bars reported "the fewest heavy drinking occasions, the lowest incidence of alcohol problems and overall is the least delinquent." These youths drink like the legal drinkers around them. In other words, the bar is a socializing influence into moderate drinking. Moreover, 3/4 of all the underage drinkers reported no alcohol-related problems, indicating that binge drinking by adolescents, with its implications of loss of control, is overstated. (R. Smart et al. Procurement of alcohol among adolescents in Ontario. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 4:419-424, 1996.)

Of course, in many European countries (one thinks of Spain, Portugal, Belgium), teens are permitted to drink legally. Their whole attitude towards alcohol diverges dramatically from that of American students. I heard a student who attended school in Denmark say when asked by his American college roommates to go out and get drunk, "Why do you want to do that?"

Further reading:

Tell children the truth about drinking, LA Times, March 1, 1995.

Recovering from an all-or-nothing approach to alcohol, Psychology Today, September/October 1996, pp. 35-43,68-70.

The new prohibitionists: Our attitudes toward alcohol are doing more harm than good, The Sciences, March/April 1984, pp. 14-19, 1984.

What can we expect from treatment for adolescent drug and alcohol abuse? Pediatrician, 14:62-69, 1987.