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Binge drinking leads to spike in alcohol-related injuries in college-age men and women

Researchers in Spain evaluated the effects of heavy episodic drinking, or binge drinking, on the incidence of alcohol-related injuries among college students. Overall, they found that self-reported binge drinking raised the likelihood of alcohol-related injuries. Among women, they found that a high frequency of binge drinking and use of marijuana increased the risk of injury and that the risk dropped when the women were 23 or older. The open-cohort study of 992 women and 371 men was conducted within the framework of a study of neurocognitive and social consequences of alcohol use. The study ran from 2005 to 2015 and included students from 33 universities. Women participants’ highest prevalence of binge drinking was at 18, while men reached a peak at 22. Among the female participants, 91 cases of alcohol-related injuries were found. Among the men, there were 36. The researchers concluded that their analysis suggests about a third of alcohol-related injuries among women could be avoided in the absence of heavy episodic drinking, or HED. For this study, six or more drinks in a single occasion was defined as HED. In Spain, a standard drink corresponds to 10 grams of alcohol. In the U.S., a standard drink has 14 grams of alcohol. The participants also reported on their marijuana use and rate and injuries to themselves or to others that were attributable to their drinking. This study’s results were most robust for women. 

Take away: Efforts to discourage binge drinking and educate college students on its potential outcomes could include details about increased chances of students injuring themselves or others. Additionally, prevention experts might consider focusing efforts more heavily on younger female students and older male students, given the gender difference in peak binge drinking found in this study. In their discussion, the study’s authors suggest that motivational interventions for college freshmen could be helpful.

Caamano-Isorna F, Moure-Rodriguez L et al. (2017) Heavy episodic drinking and alcohol-related injuries: An open cohort study among college students, Accident Analysis and Prevention, 100, 23-29

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