Binge-drinking, a new form of alcohol consumption among teenagers and young adults, has developed over the last decade and has become a major social influence.
The fact that a young person adopts a behavior that is socially shared by other people of his or her generation allows him or her to become part of a group and to identify with it.
We have all been to parties where there is alcohol, in varying amounts. For some, the temptation to consume it is strong and the influence that comes with it is even stronger. For example, you may see all your friends having fun by drinking heavily and they push you to do the same. A social pressure is imposed (on you), forcing you to drink even if you didn’t want to.
However, this phenomenon is not without consequences:
- Drinking alcohol can lead to what we call blackouts…
An alcohol-induced blackout is an amnesia of any alcoholic event/episode without loss of consciousness. It is characterized by an alteration of the memory during an alcoholic intoxication. This term is not to be confused with blackout. Two types of blackouts exist. A block blackout is a complete amnesia of events that are easily recalled under ‘normal’ circumstances. What characterizes a complete amnesia is that the loss of a specific memory episode is permanent and cannot be recalled. By having a fragmented blackout, a recovery of memories from the alcoholic event may be possible and may be facilitated by recall. Although the subject may not initially be aware that he or she has a memory lapse, recall allows the subject to remember forgotten items (Jennison, KM et al., 1994).
- Alcohol consumption increases the risk of rape
A longitudinal study was conducted by Jenna L. McCauley et al. in 2010, on the relationship between binge-drinking behavior and rape experiences of women who had been raped, or attempted to be raped. Analyses showed that heavy drinking in a short period of time (binge-drinking) significantly increased the risk of subsequent rape, and monthly binge-drinkers were significantly more likely to experience alcohol-related rape than forcible rape.
- Drinking can end up in the emergency room
Because of excessive drinking, the common reason for emergency room visits among adolescents is ethyl coma. Other reasons may include death, trauma, and behavioral disorders with a risk of sexual assault (50% of adolescent girls sexually abused while under the influence of alcohol), according to A. Chassevent et al. in 2013.
- Alcohol consumption can create neurological damage over time
Due to the intensive consumption of alcohol in a very short period of time, binge-drinkers will develop neurological lesions and therefore their cognitive functioning will be impacted. The binge-drinking phenomenon will cause attentional, memory, and executive function deficits (Maurage, 2015).
Individuals will suffer an impact on their memory, and the latter is a cognitive function that is very complex to study, but which remains important to us on a daily basis. According to Tulving in 1976, it allows the recording, the conservation as well as the restitution of distant or close information. In alcohol dependence, episodic memory will be affected and altered (through blackout), as well as working memory and executive functions (Our memory: how does it work and develop?)
- A growing trend: a few statistics to illustrate this phenomenon
It is important to know that the occasional consumption of alcoholic beverages as well as the frequency of drunkenness in recent years in France are on the rise among young adults and adolescents (according to Beck et al. in 2014). A 2005 Escapad survey on alcohol experimentation showed that 92% of 17 year olds have had experience with alcohol. Another HBSC survey was conducted in 2006 where 84% of young people declared having already drunk alcohol at age 15. These two surveys, among many others, demonstrate the cultural roots of alcohol in our society (Beck et al., 2008).
We have all had experiences with alcohol, but binge-drinking is a dangerous way to consume. Indeed, it has several consequences such as possible neurological alterations, alcoholic coma, blackouts etc. However, there are other ways to consume alcohol, such as being more responsible and trying to avoid the social pressure to drink more and faster.