November 22, 2013 —

Every month, we’re keeping you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at binge drinking behaviors among high school seniors.

Research on teens and alcohol consumption has shown that binge drinking – generally defined as consuming five or more drinks on one occasion – has been on the decline for the past fifteen years. A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics, however, revealed a previously unidentified – and tremendously dangerous – trend. The study, which looked at the prevalence of binge drinking among high school seniors, asked students how often they consumed more than five, 10 and 15 drinks during a single sitting.

The results of the study were startling, even to researchers: one in every five high school seniors reported engaging in binge drinking that involved consuming five or more drinks on a single occasion. Furthermore, one in ten reported consuming 10 or more drinks on a single occasion and one in 20 reported consuming 15 or more drinks on a single occasion.

Collected from more than 16,000 U.S. students surveyed over a six-year period, the participants’ responses suggest that “extreme” binge drinking, which encompasses drinking more than 10 drinks on a single occasion, is not a trend to be ignored. Although the rate of binge drinking is generally declining, the new study, which shows that students often consume two or three times the five-drink binge drinking threshold, may explain why hospitalizations for extreme behaviors like overdosing are on the rise.

Overall, boys were more likely to report heavy drinking than girls and Caucasian high school seniors reported more frequent binge drinking than their black and Hispanic counterparts. “Extreme” binge drinking was also more prevalent in the South than the Northeast and the West. Additionally, students in rural areas were more likely to engage in such behaviors than those in urban settings. Health professionals have suggested solutions, such as better enforcement of underage drinking laws and adequate alcohol taxes, to combat this scary trend. As parents, what can we do to curb the frequency of “extreme” binge drinking? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Learn more about this study and its findings here.