Saturday, October 08, 2005

Binge Drinking in Teens

From the Pioneer Press

It's Friday. You're in college. Time to head to the liquor store. Students everywhere follow the same ritual. Many know their limits. But Minnesota hospitals say a rising number do not.

Underage drinking is one thing, but teens drinking themselves into the emergency room is quite another.

New information from Minnesota hospitals suggests more teens than ever are drinking so excessively that they need medical treatment. The number of teens discharged from emergency rooms for alcohol-related conditions increased 45 percent from 2000 to 2004, according to hospital data obtained by the Pioneer Press.

The hospital figures contradict Minnesota's routine surveys of teenage behavior, which have shown steady or declining rates of teen drinking. But they aren't surprising to the ER doctors working nights and weekends.

"There's always one in every crowd that is convinced he can drink more than everybody else," said Dr. David Hale, medical director for the Woodwinds Health Campus emergency room in Woodbury. "That's usually the one that ends up coming in."

Binge drinking was recently spotlighted after the death of a Minnesota State University-Moorhead student. The body of Patrick Kycia, 19, of Stillwater was found Sept. 27 in the Red River. He was last seen reportedly drinking heavily at a fraternity house five days earlier.

The Minnesota Hospital Association data is, in many ways, a record of close calls. Many teens entering the ER for alcohol exposure simply need to be monitored and given intravenous fluids. Others may have been injured in traffic accidents, and their alcohol use is listed as a secondary reason for their emergency medical care.

But all the ER doctors interviewed reported rising numbers of teens with blood-alcohol levels of 0.25 to 0.35 percent, which are well above the legal driving limit of 0.08 percent


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