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The British Medical Association states that "there is no consensus on the definition of binge drinking. In the past, 'binge drinking' was often used to refer to an extended period of time, usually two days or more, during which a person repeatedly drank to intoxication, giving up usual activities and obligations."
The International Center for Alcohol Policies says that diverse definitions of binge drinking exist. "Within the field of epidemiology, for example, there is disparity regarding the amount of alcohol that needs to be consumed in order to qualify as a 'binge'. One of the commonly used thresholds for 'binge' drinking is 5 or more drinks for men and 4 or more for women per occasion. This definition has gained a foothold within the social sciences literature and has influenced media reporting of drinking behavior."
It explains that "the clinical definition of a binge, as the other hand, is characterized by the consumption of alcohol to intoxication, usually a solitary and self-destructive activity lasting up to several days and involving a loss of control. Epidemiological definitions generally refer to much shorter drinking episodes but do not quantify binge drinking adequately."
The British Medical Association concludes that "in common usage, binge drinking is now usually used to refer to heavy drinking over an evening or similar time span - sometimes also referred to as heavy episodic drinking. Binge drinking is often associated with drinking with the intention of becoming intoxicated and, sometimes, with drinking in large groups." It is sometimes associated with physical or social harm.
=Psychological aspects of binge drinking
Prevalence of binge drinking
A culture of binge drinking is prevalent among many communities, for example at universities, at parties, amongst some aboriginal groups and in sporting clubs. Those who are able to consume large amounts of alcohol are often held in high regard by their peers.
In Canada, binge drinking, especially among youth and university students, is a common phenomenon. Sometimes, binge drinking is accompanied by hostile behaviour and violence, as can be seen in the many Canadian bars and alcohol licensed establishments where fights abruptly break out. During Canadian university frosh weeks, such as at the University of Ottawa, student binge drinking is a notorious activity, drawing large numbers of students, mostly undergraduate, to downtown Ottawa (including districts such as The Market) where alcohol abuse is rampant. Ottawa, among other university towns and cities in Canada, contain student drinking sub cultures, perhaps reflective of the larger society's tolerance for inordinate drinking.
In most of Europe, children and adolescents routinely experience alcohol much earlier than in America, and often with parental approval and supervision. The drinking age in most countries is 18, and in many jurisdictions younger people can purchase certain types of alcohol in certain settings, such as in a restaurant with a parent. Parents may also choose to provide beverages such as diluted wine or beer mixed with lemonade (radler or Lager Top or a shandy) with a meal to encourage responsible consumption of alcohol. For example the legal age for drinking and buying beer in Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and The Netherlands is 16 years of age. It is generally perceived that binge drinking is most prevalent in Scandinavia and least common in the southern part of the continent, in Italy, France, and the Mediterranean.
Concerns over binge drinking by teenagers has led to a review of liquor advertising being announced by the New Zealand government in January 2006. The review will consider regulation of sport sponsorship by liquor companies, which at present is commonplace. Previously the drinking age in New Zealand was 20, then dropped to 18 a few years ago. Deemed to be a wise move at the time, due mainly to the argument that at 18 an individual can do all other adult activities. ie. Serve in war, vote, marry etc. At the time of the age-lowering, the Police were found to strictly enforce the on-licence (bar, restaurant) code for underage-drinking. This led to a period of many of New Zealand's youth getting strangers to purchase high alcohol content beverages for them. eg. Cheap vodka or rum. A propensity to consume an entire bottle of spirits developed and led to an instant increase in the amount of youths under 18 being admitted to A&E hospitals. The New Zealand health service classifies Binge Drinking as anytime a person consumes 8 or more beverages in a sitting.
In South Africa a large percentage of the population between the ages of 18 - 35 engage in binge drinking. Most recently the isiZulu word 'Phuza' (directly translated as Drink) has been adopted by many so-called binge drinkers to describe the well publicised 'Phuza Thursday'. This term was introduced by the breakfast show team of 5FM a national radio station. If one is suffering visibly from the after effects of binge drinking, they are said to have a 'Phuza Face.' It could be said that 'Phuza Face' is a colloquialism of the term 'hangover.'
Since the mid 1990s there has been growing in popularity the so called botellón between the youth. This can be considered a case of binge drinking since most people that attend it consume 3 to 5 drinks in less than 5 hours.
In most European nations, binge drinking is usually seen to be less of a problem than it is in the United States. However, in the UK, some areas of the media are spending a great deal of time reporting on what they see as a social ill that is becoming more prevalent as time passes. In response, the government has introduced measures to deter disorderly behavior and sales of alcohol to people under 18, with special provisions in place during the holiday season. In January 2005, it was reported that 1 million admissions to UK accident and emergency units each year are alcohol-related; in many cities, Friday and Saturday nights are by far the busiest periods for ambulance services.
In 2005, the Licensing Act 2003 came into effect in the UK, partly intended to tackle binge drinking. Some observers, however, believe it will exacerbate the problem, especially with the advent of 24 hour licensing.
The culture of drinking in the UK is markedly different from that of most other European nations (although it is very similar to that of the Republic of Ireland). In mainland Europe, alcohol tends to be consumed more slowly over the course of an evening, often accompanied by a restaurant meal. In the UK, by contrast, alcohol is generally consumed rapidly, leading much more readily to drunkenness. While being drunk in mainland Europe is widely viewed as being socially unacceptable, in the UK the reverse is true in many social circles. Particularly amongst young adults, there is often a certain degree of social pressure to get drunk during a night out. This culture is increasingly becoming viewed by politicians and the media as a serious problem that ought to be tackled, partly due to health reasons, but mostly due to its association with violence and anti-social behaviour. The impression is often given that drinking in this way automatically leads to such behaviour, which, in fairness, is not actually the case for most UK drinkers.
The French soccer player David Ginola commented:
"I was amazed when I came to this country at the way the women here behave,' he said. From London to Newcastle to Leeds to Manchester I saw women vomiting in the streets. It is disgusting the way they behave. In France the women will only drink a little bit. In this country the women try and keep up with the men, drink for drink. The women behave like men in sex as well as drink. In France they are much more sophisticated and modest. That is why I will not bring my children up here. I don't want my daughter to be an Englishwoman." [How to reference and link to summary or text]
Gwyneth Paltrow says she is disgusted by the binge drinking culture among young British women.
"I really don't like drunk women. I think it's such a bad look. I think it's very inappropriate. "I think, 'Ooh, you're really degrading yourself to be this pissed out in public.'". Gwyneth says she rarely gets drunk with friends, she added: "I don't really have drunk friends. My friends are kind of adult, they hold their liquor." 
College students are sometimes characterized as having a propensity to binge-drink (under the 5/4 definition), especially in the United States, despite the fact that the U.S. drinking age is 21. According to the 5/4 definition, a binge drinker is a man who consumes five or more alcoholic drinks on an occasion of unspecified duration and is a woman who consumes four or more drinks on an occasion of unspecified length. Common stereotypical participants include athletes and fraternity/sorority members, particularly after final examinations, sporting events, and during spring break, where there are generally no rules enforced, and men and women imbibe large amounts of alcohol, causing inebriation.
One common explanation of this alleged propensity for so-called binge drinking (5/4 definition) is that many college students are living on their own for the first time, free of parental supervision, among peers, especially those of the opposite sex.
Some people argue that binge drinking happens in the U.S. not in spite of the strict underage drinking laws, but rather because of it. Proponents of a lower drinking age argue that strict drinking laws drive underage drinkers underground, instead of in a licensed establishment where they will be better supervised and under less pressure to binge. Proponents of the drinking age at 21 dismiss such arguments, citing the significant drop in morbidity and mortality that followed the increased drinking age from state to state, and argue that underage drinking should be curtailed through strict enforcement of the laws against it. Others point out that morbidity and mortality also decreased among those age 21 and above and was not caused by the drop in legal purchase/possession age.
The U.S. state where so-called binge-drinking is most prevalent is North Dakota, where the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that 31% of residents ages 12 and older had engaged in binge drinking, using the 5/4 definition instead of the clinically-recognized definition, at least once in the last 30 days. The survey found that the lowest binge-drinking rate in the U.S. was in Utah; this is attributed in part to the large Mormon population there and some restrictive state laws.
Research in the United States has found that about one-half of those identified as binge drinkers under the 5/4 definition are not even intoxicated leading many to claim that such a definition inappropriately demonizes moderate alcohol intake.
Over 60% of college and university students are often reported to be "bingers", based on the 5/4 definition. However, when the recognized medical/clinical definition is applied, it appears that fewer than one-half of one percent of college students have binged in the previous year.
- Binge drinking
- Binge Drinking: Key Facts and Issues. International Center for Alcohol Policies. Last accessed November 20, 2006.
- Key Facts and Issues
- Gwyneth doesn't like drunks
- Kapka Kassabova The unbearable lightness of being English
- Perkins, H.W., et al. Estimated blood alcohol levels reached by "binge" and "nonbinge" drinkers. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 2001, 15 (4), 317-320, p. 319.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and alcoholism. Alcohol Tolerance (Alcohol Alert number 31 from NIAA). Washington, DC: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1996...
- Eliminating high-risk drinking: report
- Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004 by the WHO.
- Effects of drinking habits - a summary of the above WHO report by GreenFacts.
- Binge Drinking
- Binge Drinking on College Campuses
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