Teen Binge Drinking: Common and Risky

Nearly 2 in 3 Teen Drinkers Admit Binge Drinking, Risking Their Health

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on January 02, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 2, 2007 -- Almost two-thirds of high school students who drink alcohol admit binge drinking and may be at risk of other serious health problems, says the CDC.

The CDC estimates that 7.4 million high school students drink alcohol, including 2.6 million binge drinkers.

Those figures, published in Pediatrics, are based on 15,240 students at public and private high schools nationwide who completed a 2003 CDC survey.

Most students said they hadn't drunk alcohol in the past month.

But 45% admitted drinking, and 64% of the drinkers admitted binge drinking, defined as having five or more drinks within a few hours.

Compared to nondrinkers, teen binge drinkers were:

  • 11 times more likely to ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol in the past 30 days.
  • 19 times more likely to be current smokers (smoked on one or more days in the past 30 days).
  • Four times more likely to be in a physical fight in the past 12 months.
  • Nearly four times more likely to have ever been raped or subjected to dating violence in the past 12 months.
  • Four times more likely to have attempted suicide during the past 12 months.
  • More than five times more likely to be sexually active with one or more persons during the past three months.

Teen binge drinkers were also more likely to use marijuana, cocaine, and inhalants, the study shows.

Binge drinking was more commonly reported by boys than by girls, and by older teens than by younger teens.

Binge drinkers tended to have worse grades, based on the students' self-reported grades.

Binge Drinking Riskiest

Student drinkers who denied binge drinking shared many of the same health risks, but to a lesser extent.

"Our study clearly shows that it's not just that students drink alcohol, but how much they drink that most strongly affects whether they experience other health and social problems," researcher Jacqueline Miller, MD, says in a CDC news release.

"It also underscores the importance of implementing effective strategies to prevent underage and binge drinking," Miller notes.

Some students may have been reluctant to report underage drinking, so the estimates may be too low, Miller's team notes.