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Drinking Games and Toga Parties – New Research on College Binge Drinking

Not entirely surprisingly, college students participating in drinking games tend to get drunker than those that don't.

An observational study examining college drinking and binge drinking behaviors - published in this month's Journal of Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research, by James A. Cranford of the University of Michigan and J.D. Clapp of San Diego State University - shows that the environmental context in which the drinking occurs has a direct correlation on number of drinks consumed, and breathalyzer checked blood alcohol levels.

Citing a fundamental flaw in most examinations of college drinking, in which students are asked to self report past drinking behaviors, often weeks or even months after the fact, the researchers instead attended 66 distinct private university parties, and at each administered questionnaires to party goers on the scene, as well as checked blood alcohol levels.

The study authors explain that situational data collection methods result in far more accurate data collection, and a better understanding of the true alcohol consumptions in different contextual environments, as well as the impact these contextual environments have on levels of drinking.

Certain environmental factors were shown to induce consistently higher levels of alcohol consumption.

Students who participated in drinking games (a common occurrence at college parties) self reported higher levels of drinking, and blew higher blood alcohol levels than those that did not.

Women who attended theme (often sexually related) or costume parties consistently drank more than they otherwise would, and more even than did men at these parties, which is a fairly uncommon occurrence.

Interestingly, the researchers observed that larger parties actually resulted in less drinking, although the researchers speculate that this reduction is more a function of limited alcohol supply than a reduced desire for consumption.

The researchers call for party hosts to minimize or eliminate drinking games, and for party goers to use caution before playing.

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