Study Guide
Binge Drinking: Causes and Consequences

Binge Drinking - Extended Answers to FAQ

  • What are some of the negative consequences of binge drinking?
    The negative consequences of binge drinking are not solely directed at the drinker. The negative impact of binge drinking extends in to the surrounding community. In his description of a prevention program at the University of Delaware, John B Bishop remarks that students usually point to the three "Vs" of binge-drinking (vandalism, violence, vomit) but ignore the 4 th V - the victim (Bishop, 2000). The other members of the college community often suffer the consequences of the other three Vs. Below is a list of the most common consequences associated with binge-drinking (see for statistics on the prevalence of these consequences).

    •   interpersonal aggression

    •   death

    •   drunk driving

    •   sexual assault

    •   increased risk for alcohol dependence

    •   unprotected sex

    •   unplanned sexual activity

    •   poor academic performance

    •   vandalism and property damage


    Bishop, J.B. (2000). An environmental approach to combat binge drinking on college campuses. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 15 , 15 - 30.

  • What are some of the attitudes or beliefs that contribute to binge drinking?
    Not all students who binge drink experience the full range and magnitude of negative consequences. One factor that may predict who is likely to experience the most severe consequences of binge drinking is the student's pre-existing beliefs about alcohol consumption. Several types of beliefs and attitudes predict student involvement in binge drinking as well as the magnitude of the consequences resulting from that drinking. For example, students who engage in binge drinking are more likely to believe that

    •   The consumption of alcohol will have positive effects (e.g., it will help me to cheer up, to relax, to forget problems, or it is a nice way to celebrate special occasions) (Norman et al., 1998; Turrisi et al., 2000)

    •   The risks of alcohol consumption are low (Turrisi et al., 2000)

    •   Alcohol consumption enhances social interactions (i.e., "It makes it easier to talk with people", "I tend to drink when my friends are drinking"). Interestingly, some research has shown that students who are more likely to endorse this belief are also more likely to be involved in physical fights and regret a sexual situation that occurred while intoxicated . (Turrisi et al., 2000)

    •   Alcohol consumption is the norm (e.g., "other people on this campus drink more than I do", "drinking is cool", "I feel pressure to drink"). A number of researchers have suggested that binge-drinkers tend to overestimate the extent to which their peers consume alcohol. This belief may serve to reduce inhibitions to increased consumption (Norman et al., 1998; Turrisi et al., 2000).

    •   There isn't anything else to do here . The perceived lack of alternatives may steer students toward situations in which there is a greater risk of binge drinking (e.g., private parties). In general, campus-sponsored programming and campus facilities are not available during prime socializing hours (after 10 p.m.). During these hours, high-risk binge drinking situations represent a disproportionate amount of the available social options (Bishop, 2000).

    •   They have less control over their drinking behavior . Binge-drinkers tend to believe that whether they drink or not depends more on factors perceived to be outside of the person's control (situation, peer pressure) than under their control (Norman et al., 1998).


    Bishop, J.B. (2000). An environmental approach to combat binge drinking on college campuses. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 15 , 15 - 30.

    Norman, P., Bennett, P., & Lewis, H. (1998). Understanding binge drinking among young people: An application of the Theory of Planned Behaviour. Health Education Research, 13 , 163 - 169.

    Turrisi, R., Wiersma, K.A., & Hughes, K.K. (2000). Binge-drinking-related consequences in college students: Role of drinking beliefs and mother-teen communications. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 14 , 342-355.

  • On average, how many drinks (one drink equals - 12oz. beer, 4oz. wine, 1oz. shot) can an individual consume in one hour and still remain within a relatively safe blood alcohol concentration (BAC) zone?|
    A 180 lb man can consume 3 drinks and a 130 lb woman can consume 2 drinks.

    Even though an individual is in a relatively safe B.A.C. zone - .02-.03 = No loss of coordination, slight euphoria and loss of shyness. .04-.05 = lowered inhibitions, minor impairment in reasoning and memory, lowering of cautions. Other factors that influence BAC levels are genetic makeup, food intake, medication, age, and hormonal changes.

    Not only do women generally weigh less, but also they naturally have less water and a higher percentage of body fat than men, which leads to a higher concentration of alcohol in the female bloodstream. Also, women have less of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down the alcohol before it's absorbed into the bloodstream. Lower levels of this enzyme in women mean that more alcohol will be absorbed into the bloodstream than in males, so women's BAC will usually be higher than men's given the same pattern and amount of drinking.

  • Does alcohol advertising and promotion increase alcohol consumption?
    Research suggests that advertising does not necessarily increase consumption; rather, advertisements increase market share. In other words, the objective of advertisers is to encourage consumers to switch to their brand, creating brand loyalty. Thus, effective advertisers gain market share at the expense of others. Additionally, they create awareness among youth; it has been determined that by age seven, children can demonstrate brand awareness of alcohol.

  • If alcohol advertising does not necessarily increase consumption, why are scholars concerned about youth's exposure to ads?
    Examinations of advertisements have found that drinking is presented as a harmless activity with no major health risks associated with it. Research has also found that consistent exposure to alcohol in media contributes to the extent that youth will experiment with alcohol-for instance, early adolescent drinkers are more likely to have been exposed to alcohol advertising, can identify more brands of beer, and view alcohol ads more favorably than non-drinkers.

  • How does the media represent alcohol consumption in its programs?
    • Alcohol remains the most frequently portrayed food or drink on network television programming.
    • There are differences in the amount of drinking shown by program genre . There tends to be more incidents of drinking in dramas than in situation comedies; interestingly, drinking frequency is the highest in daytime soap operas, whereas drinking levels are substantially higher in dramas.
    • There are few risks and consequences for drinking characters; few television programs tend to mention or deal with the harmful effects of drinking. Regular characters are less likely to be admonished or punished for their alcohol misuse or addiction than a guest character. Also, drinking is often treated in programs in a humorous fashion.
    • Solutions to alcohol use and abuse are most often shown at the individual level-with education, treatment and the simple character admission that he/she has a drinking problem.
    • On MTV, a viewer sees alcohol use every 14 minutes, compared to every 17 minutes in films, and every 27 minutes on prime-time television.
    • 93% of the movies contain alcohol depictions, with only 14% of the movies depicting a refusal of alcohol.

  • What is the basic premise of alcohol advertising?

    Ad copy typically emphasizes that it is okay to drink alcohol in moderation and that consumers need to "know when to say when."

    It is important to realize that advertising emphasizing moderate drinking would be an economic failure; statistics from the NIAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) claim that 10% of the drinking-age population consuming over half of all alcohol beverages sold in the United States.

    Thus, there is an economic reason why ad copy encourages its consumers to drink in moderation rather than to "know when to say no."

    What are some of the common myths alcohol advertisers have integrated into their campaigns?

    • Drinking is a risk free activity . Ad copy often implies that it is okay to consume large quantities of alcohol. Ads do not integrate images of unpleasant drunkenness, broken marriages, abused children, lost jobs, illness and premature death, alcohol impaired driving, and addiction.
    • Light beer is less filling, and therefore one can drink more. Light beer has fewer calories, which may or may not contribute to weight gain, but has the same percentage of alcohol content.
    • Problem drinking behaviors are normal . Slogans present drinking as "your own special island," "your mountain hideaway," and "an escape from daily pressures," capitalizing on the feelings of alienation and loneliness some alcoholics experience. These examples of ad slogans encourage solitary drinking, one of the classic indicators of alcoholism.
    • Alcohol is a magic potion that can transform you . Advertising links alcohol with attributes and qualities that we aspire for-happiness, wealth, prestige, success, maturity, freedom, virility, romance, and sexual satisfaction.
    • Sports and alcohol go together. Alcohol consumption actually decreases athletic performance. It is natural to believe that sports and alcohol "go together" because the alcohol industry sponsors a wide range of sporting events and is often endorsed by athletes.
    • If alcohol were truly dangerous, we wouldn't be advertising it . Media are not likely to bite the hand that feeds them, since the alcohol industry spends more than two billion dollars annually on advertising and promotions.