According to the Centers for Disease Control, a staggering 13 percent of all American women binge drink each month, contributing to the deaths of about 12,000 women and girls annually in the United States.
The report states that one in every eight women and one in five high school girls reports binge drinking, which means the person consumes four or more drinks (five or more for men) in a single setting. Since women tend to be smaller they are more susceptible to the harms of alcohol at lower levels of drinking.
CDC Director Thomas Frieden calls binge drinking an under-recognized women's health issue, pointing out that the fallout from such abuse can include an increase in a woman's risk of breast cancer, heart disease, unintentional pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and auto accidents. The CDC warns that underage women and those who are pregnant should not drink at all. Other women are advised not to have more than one alcoholic drink per day.
Surprisingly, binge drinking is more common among non-Hispanic whites and it becomes more acute as household income climbs. About 16 percent of the binge drinkers are women in households earning $75,000 or more a year.
Although the CDC report didn't reveal why women binge drink, some researchers feel at least part of the blame falls on the alcohol industry which targets women in their advertising. Access to the product is no problem, since alcohol is cheap, advertised widely and easily found in many convenience stores.
Dr. Robert Brewer, head of the CDC's alcohol program, says there are prevention strategies that work, including restrictions on alcohol sales, and better screening and counseling. Any comprehensive strategy must include the younger audience since the CDC report says about 20 percent of high school girls binge drink.
Locally, we have seen the difference a coordinated strategy can make in attacking the problem of alcohol use among our teens. Last fall, TIMES NEWS reporter Chris Parker examined the progress being made in our communities with educating our young people on the dangers of drinking and driving. Programs such as Students Against Drunk Driving chapters in our schools have been instrumental in lowering the teen alcohol statistics.
When students learned of the life-long consequences that drinking and driving can have, the message hit home with many students. In Jim Thorpe, students were surprised to learn in a talk given by Jim Thorpe Police Chief Joseph Schatz that DUI remains on your driving record your whole life. Michael Kalage, a senior, said that kind of long-range consequence is something teenagers rarely consider.
Pamela S. Hyde, head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said it's critically important that parents, teachers, coaches and all caring adults in a young person's life talk with them early and often about the dangers of underage alcohol use.
The TIMES NEWS article also quoted Rebecca Schaeffer, the SADD adviser at Carbon Career & Technical Institute, who stated that one thing the students learn is that having fun doesn't need to involve alcohol and drugs and that after watching some of their friends make poor choices with drinking, more students are choosing to be more responsible.
Society needs to see that kind of responsible action carried over to their post-high school and adult years.
By Jim Zbick