I have voiced my disapproval of the 'novel' way in which Henry Wechsler and many journalists and critics of drinking have defined the term 'binge' as the consumption of 5 or more drinks in a day by a male or 4 by a female before. My point is that it does violence to the traditional meaning of the term (which implied considerably higher consumption) plus it grossly mislabels patterns of drinking that involve 5 or more drinks per day without any impairment.
It was surprising and gratifying therefore to find that my concerns have been echoed by ' The Inter-Association Task Force on Alcohol and other Substance Abuse Issues' -a coalition of 21 Higher Education Associations. According to D.Hunter, who heads the task force and is a Director of BACCHUS and GAMMA, Government officials and researchers should stop using the term 'binge drinking' with reference to the student pattern. Their concern is that it mislabels students by lumping them with much heavier drinking that is problematic and widely recognised as dangerous.
Henry Wechsler responded to this criticism in the Chronicle of
Higher Education (15th September 2000)by saying that students
themselves use the term 'binge'.
In analysing Wechsler's own studies
('College alcohol use: a full or empty glass?'Journal of American
College Health 47:247-252 1999) it is admitted that the tendency
to view college drinking with alarm does not fit with the data
reported - college drinking has decreased in recent years and
their study notes that' .. the median number of drinks per week
for frequent binge drinkers was 14.5..' That means that almost
half of the so called frequent binge drinkers actually have less
than 2 drinks a day - ie the US Dietary Guidelines definition
of moderate drinking for males. What could more dramatically prove
the crucial importance of drinking patterns than that simple numerical
observation?They also note that frequent binge drinkers(19%) consumed
the majority of alcohol (68%) and that when norms are considered
across all Colleges, the median number of drinks at 1.5 per student
per week is very low.