Prevent Binge Drinking: a Talk May do The Trick

Many parents feel frustrated that they have no control over their teens' college plans while away from home. But one researcher says that proactive communication between a parent and teenager before leaving the nest could prevent a very dangerous and prevalent behavior: binge drinking.

Last year, a survey by Harvard University reported that 44% of college students binge drink. Bingeing is defined as consuming five or more drinks in a row at least once in two weeks for men, and four drinks for women.

In the latest study, published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, Idaho's Boise State University psychologist Rob Turrisi, PhD, and colleagues, add a few more factors to the equation.

Turissi says that students' beliefs about the positive or negative effects of drinking and communication with their mothers about drinking can influence whether or not they binge.

"Drinking and its consequences are under-researched. Turrisi stated that WebMD wanted to study the factors and consequences of drinking. His colleagues and Turrisi surveyed almost 300 university freshmen. They found that if the students believed that drinking enhanced their social behavior or lifestyle, they were more likely to use alcohol and have a tendency to binge drink.

"If you think that drinking adds to the fun, then you're at higher risk for the consequences of a hangover, regretted sex, blackouts, and maybe something more serious," says Turissi.

But if their mothers had talked with them about the effects of alcohol and the consequences of drinking, the teenagers were less likely to do so.

Turrisi explained that they focused their research on conversations between the teenage and mom. Other studies have demonstrated that mothers deal with these issues better than fathers. The father is often reactive or the one who acts after the fact.

Although this might not be possible in every family due to different relationships and circumstances, it is a good way for parents of children to make a lasting impact on their behavior. His team is now looking at the dynamics that make these alcohol discussions possible and how to encourage parents to open the lines of communication.

Thomas Van Hoose, PhD, a clinical psychologist in the Dallas, agrees that parents must be involved in their children's' behavior when it comes to drinking. In the case of college binge drinking, unfortunately, too often parents are unaware of the problem until after something bad happens, he tells WebMD.

Van Hoose is a member of the clinical facility in psychiatry at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas. He says college-aged children can become addicted to binge eating for many reasons. His main reason is peer pressure. This can be especially true if the student is part of an organisation that promotes alcohol consumption. In addition, alcohol is in general more readily available on and around campuses.

It may be used by students as self-medication after a breakup, bad grades or any other difficulties. Many of these teenagers and young adults also have low self-esteem, problems with their parents before going to college, or a drinking problem in high school.

Van Hoose explains, "It's hard to tell which has the most influence environment or genes."

Mark Goldman, PhD agrees with the fact that personality type and family also play important roles. There are some people more at risk of binge drinking than others, such as those who have a history of alcoholism. People who enjoy thrills, or those who love a lot. These people are likely to be pilots or enjoy rollercoasters. Although it is not certain that they will, it is more probable. Goldman is a psychology professor at the University of South Florida and chairman of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism subcommittee on teenage drinking.

Those with a severe drinking problem need to be evaluated and may be treated with psychotherapy or medication and/or may need to be in a substance abuse program.

Van Hoose said that "they will need a lot more support." Van Hoose says that their parents should actively involve them in the treatment and that the teenager must also be prepared to participate.

Last month, the institute released a 492-page report on the dangers of alcohol for all ages. It advises that research has shown that schools, parents, peers, policy-makers, and business can effectively reduce underage drinking -- if the intervention begins before kids begin to use alcohol. Donna Shalala (Secretary of Health and Human Services) says research like the Harvard Survey shows how serious the problem is on colleges campuses.

These survey results are an updated version of the 1993 and 1997 ones. They were compile from nearly 14,000 college students' responses. It found an increase in frequent binge drinking. The good news is that it found some encouraging signs. The percentage of students abstaining from alcohol is also increasing. 56% either avoid drinking at all, or aren't addicted to it.