Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Binge Drinking Puts the Brain, and Life Itself, at Risk

(HealthDay News) -- Nearly half of students at four-year colleges do it regularly (and, it's not sex).

Rather, it's binge drinking -- downing five or more alcoholic drinks at a sitting.

"People have a hard time identifying alcohol as a drug," said Jenny Hwang, associate dean of students and director of the counseling center at Stony Brook University on Long Island, N.Y. In fact, she said, heavy drinking is glamorized as a rite of passage in college years.

But it's a dangerous rite.

The death toll from alcohol has been rising among U.S. college students. According to the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol-related deaths have increased in this group from 1,440 in 1998 to 1,825 less than a decade later, in 2005.

Even if the binge drinking doesn't result in death, Hwang and others emphasize, the risks can be great. In a study published in April, researchers from San Diego reported that young people who binge drink can seriously damage the white matter in their brain, which is crucial for relaying information between brain cells.Read more...

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