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Let's drink to less drinking

If I were a drink – I would be a fine glass of wine – “sophisticated, refined, complicated, and hard…

By Kerry Blackadar , in Blogoscopy: Student health in focus , on January 15, 2009 Tags: , , , , ,

If I were a drink – I would be a fine glass of wine – “sophisticated, refined, complicated, and hard to deal with.”

That is one response from the 10 question quiz “What Kind of Drink Are You?” available on BrainFall.com, a website that was launched by four Berkeley students in 2007. YouThink.com is another website that offers answers to some of life’s more relevant questions, like: “What kind of Chapstick are you?” or “Which famous Serial Killer are you?”. I took the quiz, “What kind of Drinker are you?” and agreed with their findings: I spend most of my time sober.

But, according to a 2007 study conducted by the BC Centre for Social Responsibility (CSR), “alcohol consumption in general and binge drinking in particular are fairly common activities engaged in by post-secondary students.” Most people I know wouldn’t be surprised by that conclusion – perhaps a bit like performing research on dogs and concluding that they engage in an activity called ‘fetch.’ But their study did tap into an interesting and highly relevant debate: what exactly constitutes binge drinking?

According to the CSR study, the definition of binge drinking depends on who you are, and particularly what country you come from. In the U.K. for example, eight drinks for men and six drinks for women over the course of a single occasion constitutes binge drinking, while here in Canada, women who have four drinks in one sitting and men who have five are considered bingers.

But students in B.C. don’t necessarily agree. In an article published by The Vancouver Sun in September 2008, one U.B.C. student told reporters that five drinks seemed low.

More recently, C.B.C. took an in-depth look at alcohol consumption in Canada in a series called High Spirits. On October 21st, 2008 The National featured a story on the growing number of problem drinkers among female students between 18 and 24. They found that up to 40 percent are binging.

The pitfalls of binge drinking are widespread: having your shoe used as a toilet, waking up the next morning in a strange bed, suffering the agony of a violent hangover, the list is endless. But binge drinking can also impose a more serious cost on many students.

Binge drinking is linked to increased rates of assault and sexual harassment. A recent study has also found that regular binge drinking may be linked to long term brain damage. Over the long term, heavy drinking is also associated with liver damage, heart disease, and some forms of cancer.

Monday’s charge of 16 employees and the directors of Lake Joseph Club (north of Toronto) for allowing drunkenness on the premises and serving liquor to intoxicated individuals is a stark reminder of both the potential implications and social responsibilities that come with drinking and serving alcohol. Three of the four patrons involved in this situation later died when their car crashed along the highway. The bill for their lunch showed they had been served 31 drinks.

Binge drinking: a growing student trend that can have sobering consequences.