Girls Keeping Up With the Boys at Bars

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Drinking to excess has always been a tradition and a problem among college men. But now college women are a growing concern. They're binge drinking in alarming numbers -- and not just on spring break. They're out in public, staggering in the streets, falling down drunk, and becoming easy targets for sexual assault.

"They are not only drinking more than their male peers, but they are now more likely to drink more heavily than their male peers," said David Jernigan, executive director at the Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University.

Of particular worry are the drinking patterns of women under the age of 21. "There has been a huge amount of effort to stop underage drinking in this country in the last 10 years. It's made some impact with the boys. We are not getting anywhere with the girls," said Jernigan.

Koren Zailckas was one of the many girls who didn't get the message about the dangers of drinking. A bright, happy child born into a stable, affluent family outside Boston, she was a star student at the local high school, but she lost much of her girlhood to the foggy haze of alcohol abuse.

"My friends were all drinking at that time. I was afraid of being excluded from them. ... I think that is where peer pressure is. I think we are drawn to alcohol because there is a problem of inclusion there, that we'll be part of the gang, part of the group," said Zailckas.

Getting 'Smashed'

Zailckas, now 25, describes her childhood experiences with alcohol in a best-selling book, "Smashed," a powerful chronicle of her own dark experiences that has struck a nerve with young woman across the country.

In her book, she reveals she took her first drink at 15. She was 16 when she passed out for the first time and ended up in the hospital having her stomach pumped.

"I didn't wake up until the next morning in my house in my childhood bed in the hospital gown sort of wondering what had happened the night before," she recalled.

The episode rocked her parents, Bob and Sharon Zailckas, who had no idea their bright, academically successful daughter was drinking alcohol.

Her father said he had "no clue" about the parties and heavy drinking his daughter described in her book.

Her mother still asks herself why she didn't see any signs of her daughter's drinking. "I should have known more, and I didn't. ... And I prided myself on always being aware, or feeling that I was trying to really be in touch with my children and what they were doing," she said.

But her hospitalization and her parents' concern did little to counter what Zailckas felt when she was among her friends. "Six months down the line, I was at a party and my friends were drinking. They were having fun and laughing, and I didn't want to be left out," she said.

Zailckas' drinking increased when she moved on to college. At New York's Syracuse University, her life was increasingly filled with boozy nights, blackouts and waking up naked not knowing what happened the night before.

Despite the fact that drinking made her more vulnerable, Zailckas said she felt stronger when she drank. "It was the only time that I could feel empowered, when I was drinking or was drunk, and feel like I could have the upper hand with the man I was talking to, chat him up," she told "20/20."

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