Saturday, September 14, 2013

SATURDAY REWIND: Young adults getting drunk before going out to get drunk

Every September, alarmed parents are clobbered with news of campus alcohol-related arrests at the universities attended by their sons and daughters.  This year, the numbers have been quite staggering.  For example, reports out of Tempe, Ariz. had more than 1,367 alcohol-related arrests just in the first three weekends of school at Arizona State University.

The following article from the alcohol research news archive demonstrates how as many as three-fourths of college students "pre-funk" or "pre-drink," ramping up their alcohol consumption before they even head out for the evening.

The alcohologists call it pre-drinking: Getting a buzz on before going to parties to get more intoxicated. A study released Tuesday which will be cited in the February 2013 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, reports that 65-75 percent of college-age students drink up before heading out rather than waiting to arrive at their destinations before starting to drink alcohol.

The pre-drinking leads to absence from school or work, hangovers, Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), violent behavior, risky sex and other drug use more than just drinking at the event would, according to researchers. Not earth-shattering news for many young adults who came to with a little regret the next day, but for the first time scientists have quantified the differences in alcohol consumption between pre-drinkers and those who waited until they got out.

Researchers found that when students drank prior to going to a bar or club, they consumed seven drinks, and students who drank only at a bar or event consumed just more than four drinks. This led to 24 percent of those who pre-partied getting involved in something that had consequences, versus just 18 percent of those who waited until going out to begin drinking.

Pre-drinking does not automatically mean a young adult has the disease of alcoholism. It seems to be part of the rite-of-passage for college-age people, more so in the United States where the drinking age is 21 compared to Switzerland, where the study was conducted. The drinking age in Switzerland is 16. What the study points to is one of the warning signs of alcohol use disorders: Alcohol use prior to use in a social setting.
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To put the pre-drinking into context... a male weighing 180 lbs. drinking seven drinks over three hours would be at a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .107 and over the legal limit for driving.  If the same guy went out without pre-drinking, four drinks over three hours would instead put the BAC at around .039, well below the .08 legal standard.  A 120 lb. female, using the averages from the study, would have a BAC of  .214 with seven drinks in three hours and .10 with four drinks in three hours.  (A drink being a 4 oz. wine, a 12 oz. beer or a 1.5 oz. shot.)