Study: Binge Drinkers More Likely to Suffer Injuries

By Virginia Breen

Jun 4, 2009 5:12pm

  ABC News On Campus reporter Lindsay Clein blogs:
A new study shows that extreme binge-drinking may be putting college students at significant risk of accidents and injuries. Research shows that among 2,000 college students with drinking problems, those who admitted to "extreme drinking," defined as eight or more drinks in a day for men and five or more for
women, were more likely than their peers to have suffered a recent alcohol-related injury. According to findings published recently in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, a man's risk of a drinking-related injury increased by 19 percent, while a woman's increased by 10 percent for each extreme drinking day he or she had in the past month. Nicole Martingano, who just graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in criminology, was the victim of a drunk-driving accident on February 25, 2006, in Gainesville. She was 19  at the time, and her injuries consisted of a femur broken in two places, a crushed right heel, a broken left elbow and left forearm, a torn posterior cruciate ligament in her knee, and a right-side brain injury that temporarily paralyzed the left side of her body.  She was put on life support for 11 days, spent two months in intensive care and three weeks in rehab learning how to walk again. The driver was convicted of driving under the influence with serious bodily injury, a third-degree felony charge which carries a statutory maximum penalty of 5 years in Florida State Prison and a $5,000.00 fine. "When I woke up I didn't know where I was for the first two months," Martingano recalled. "My mom had to tell me everything and keep reminding me because I couldn't remember because of my brain injury." Once everything sank in, she began working on presentations  to inform college students of the dangers of drinking and driving. "I was sitting in my bed working on presentations before I was walking," she said. "I was angry and I wanted to make sure it could never happen again, I wanted to save lives." Maureen Miller, a specialist in alcohol and other drug prevention at Gatorwell health promotion services at the University of Florida, said the university does a number of things to address the negative consequences associated with high-risk drinking. "One of the things all new students have to go through is the online alcohol education program on mystudentbody.com,” she said.  ”That's a really critical time when students are transitioning from
being at home and starting at college for the first time." She added that the invincibility factor may be one thing that contributes to the high drinking rates in college students. The fact that alcohol is easily available in college towns
doesn't help much either. “We are primarily a college town," she said. "The alcohol here is really accessible, fairly cheap, and the alcohol industry really targets college students.” Researchers also found that students with a "sensation-seeking" personality were at higher risk of drinking-related injuries. The data came from interviews with 2,090 students at five U.S. universities who had screened positive for risky drinking at their college health clinic.  Risky drinking may consist of having more than 15 drinks a week for men, or 12 or more per week for women. "I think there might be kind of a genetic component as well, and certainly if someone has a family history of alcoholism or serious alcohol problems or even substance abuse problems, that's
definitely a red flag to be aware of," Miller said. "I think it also goes back to that kind of mentality of, you know, I can do these things and nothing bad happens to me, so I can continue to do them and
looking for kind of the adrenaline and the adventure and things like that." Martingano plans on promoting her speeches nationwide, and has already spoken more than 50 times at UF. She's made speeches at University of Northern Florida, University of Southern Florida, St. Leo University, several high schools, and Shands Hospital. She wants people to be aware of not only the physical damages alcohol-related accidents can have on someone, but the mental damages as well. "The scars on my body will never be as painful as the scars on her heart," she said of the student who chose to drink and drive the night of her accident.

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