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As spring approaches and warm weather is in the air, high school seniors begin to think of graduation, parties and leaving home. Within a few short months many seniors will be moving from their parents’ home for the first time. There will be many decisions to make from choosing a roommate, which courses to take, how to decorate the dorm room and Greek affiliation. These are exciting times and can sometimes be a little stressful for both parent and teen.

When freshmen arrive on campus and taste freedom for the first time there will be lots of parties and get togethers. It is not uncommon for drinking to be involved. The drinking can range from a couple of drinks to be sociable to some pretty heavy binge drinking. It is important to discuss the consequences of binge drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse offers advice for both students and their families.

According to NIAAA, “Harmful and underage college drinking are significant public health problems, and they exact an enormous toll on the intellectual and social lives of students on campuses across the United States. Drinking at college has become a ritual that students often see as an integral part of their higher education experience.

"Many students come to college with established drinking habits, and the college environment can exacerbate the problem. According to a national survey, almost 60 percent of college students ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month, and almost 2 out of 3 of them engaged in binge drinking during that same timeframe.”

Many college alcohol problems are related to binge drinking. Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentrationlevels to 0.08 grams per deciliter. This typically occurs after four drinks for women and five drinks for men—in about two hours. Drinking this way can pose serious health and safety risks, including car crashes, drunken-driving arrests, sexual assaults, and injuries. Over the long term, frequent binge drinking can damage the liver and other organs.

To avoid binge drinking and its consequences, college students (and all people who drink) are advised to track the number of drinks they consume over a given period of time. That is why it is important to know exactly what counts as a drink. In the United States, a standard drink is one that contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:

  • 12 ounces of beer with 5 percent alcohol content
  • 5 ounces of wine with 12 percent alcohol content
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits with 40 percent alcohol content

Prepare your teens for living in the college environment by talking to them openly. Make sure they have alcohol related information at their disposal. For further information, visit http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/CollegeFactSheet/CollegeFactSheet.pdf Upcoming articles will offer more in depth advice on this and related topics.

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Kaye Frataccia is the program manager for Around the Table. This column solely represents the writer's opinion.