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Educators Recommend Dropping 'Binge Drinking' Term

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A group of higher-education associations has recommended that government officials, college administrators and researchers stop using the term binge drinking to describe student alcohol consumption, the University of Texas Daily Texan reported Sept. 14.

The request was made by members of the Inter-Association Task Force on Alcohol and Other Substance Abuse Issues in an attempt to reduce excessive drinking on college campuses. The association is an umbrella organization of 21 higher-education associations.

“The use of the term 'binge drinking' has hurt our effort in controlling alcohol abuse on campus,” said Edward Hammond, chairman of National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week. He said that the binge drinking term may actually encourage alcohol consumption by leading students to believe that heavy drinking is a campus norm.

Instead, the task force said universities should provide students with accurate information about alcohol consumption levels on campus. “To prevent problem drinking, we'll spread the truth,” Hammond said. “As soon as everyone realizes that the term binge drinking is ill-defined, they'll stop using it.”

But a new report recently released by Harvard University's School of Public Health contradicts the task force's recommendation, as well as the assumption that students abuse alcohol because they overestimate the alcohol consumption of their peers. According to the College Alcohol Study, 47 percent of students underestimated binge drinking on campus, while only 13 percent overestimated alcohol use.

Overall, students estimated that 35 percent of their peers binge-drink. “This begs the question of how students who underestimate the norm will change their drinking habits when they learn the correct higher level,” said study director Henry Weschler.

A number of colleges and universities have already begun replacing the term “binge drinking” with “high-risk drinking” in their literature.

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