I am not surprised by the new CDC study that one in four high school students binge drink. As a culture, we have glamorized drinking and made it an essential part of many rituals, from football games to weddings to holiday parties.
I once assumed that drinking was the recourse of teens who were lost, who didn’t have connections to athletics or academics or stable families. But I have since found that drinking is universal in high school; sports stars, drama club presidents and valedictorians all drink. In fact, 81 percent of high school students try alcohol.
A consistent research finding is that parents shrug off underage drinking as part of the teenage landscape. This newspaper is full of stories of parents who allow teens to drink in their home and even buy them the booze. We have accepted the rampant alcohol abuse among our teenagers.
At least Georgia did not end up in the top tiers of binge drinking; we had the fifth lowest rate. Tennessee had the lowest rate, 6.8 percent, while Wisconsin had the highest, 23.9 percent . (That does not surprise me. I once had to file a story from a remote and very cold corner of Wisconsin. In search of a phone — this was in the days before cell phones or laptops — I went to a bar that was open at 10 a.m. on a Sunday and packed with patrons.)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines binge drinking as having five or more drinks in the span of a few hours.
“Binge drinking increases many health risks, including fatal car crashes, contracting a sexually transmitted disease, dating violence and drug overdoses,” CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said.
The CDC, which also studied 2009 nationwide telephone surveys of adults, found:
* From 1993 to 2009, binge drinking decreased among high school boys but stayed the same among high school girls and adults in general.
* People with annual household incomes of $75,000 or more are more likely to binge drink (19.3 percent).