April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and instead of toasting it, how about a look at some salient facts. Here, five things you should know about alcohol.
- ‘Binge drinking’ is less drinks than you’d guess
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heavy drinking is defined as eight or more drinks per week for women, and 15 or more drinks per week for men. Binge drinking, which the CDC calls “the most common form of drinking,” is defined as four or more drinks during a single occasion for women, and five or more drinks during a single occasion for men.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) notes that about about half of college students who drink, binge drink.
- The legal American drinking age is (kind of) 21
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 requires states to prohibit anyone under 21 from buying or publicly possessing alcoholic beverages “as a condition of receiving State highway funds.”
It does not, however, explicitly prohibit consumption. According to the Federal Trade Commission, states may have limited exceptions, including those relating to religious activities or parental consent. But all states only permit family members to provide alcohol to a minor on private property.
By the way, after Prohibition, nearly all states lowered the boom on drinking under age 21, but by the mid ’70s, thanks in part to the voting age having been lowered to 18, 29 states had dropped it down to 18. A main reason the act was passed was studies showing that car car accidents were the leading cause of death among teenagers. And while it’s still the No. 1 cause, the numbers have dropped by a lot.
- Lowering that drinking age? Not so much
A 2014 Gallup poll shows that 74% of people oppose the lowering of the drinking age to 18. This is consistent with the percentage of people — 79% — who supported the National Minimum Drinking Age Act.
- Drinking can be dangerous
It’s easy to forget that drinking can result in death. Here are some stats from the NIAAA:
- Death: 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.
- Assault: More than 690,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking.
- Sexual Abuse: More than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
- Injury: 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 receive unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol.
- And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 10,076 people died in drunk driving crashes in 2013.
- Signs of alcohol poisoning (from the CDC):
When you binge drink, basically your body can no longer process the alcohol, which causes the blood alcohol concentration to rise. The clinical signs and symptoms range from “minimal impairment, decreased judgment and control, slurred speech, reduced muscle coordination, vomiting, and stupor (reduced level of consciousness and cognitive function) to coma and death.”
- Drinking responsibly is actually pretty easy
In many colleges, alcohol is as abundant as laptops. A 2011 survey conducted by CORE shows that over 70% of students say that it helps them break the ice, enhances social activity and gives them something fun to do. So, be careful when you indulge –and remember, the old adage “everything in moderation” is never more true than when drinking alcohol. Most campus websites have guidelines on drinking in moderation, and tips often include:
- Know what you’re drinking, and how much alcohol is in it
- Don’t mix alcohol with energy drinks. The caffeine in energy drinks may mask the effects of alcohol and lead to drinking too much.
- Drink plenty of water in between drinks
- Never drive while buzzed, much less drunk.