A new study finds that binge drinking is common among US teenagers. The survey of 16,332 high school seniors found that binge drinking, defined as consuming five or more drinks in a row for boys and four or more for girls, was common, with one in five students admitting to at least one episode within the past two weeks.
Drinking at this level makes driving dangerous and poses a long-term risk of addiction, deterioration of the still-developing brain of the liver, the researchers emphasized.
The results -- from the sample of whom 52.3 percent were girls, 64.5 percent white, 11 percent black, 13.1 percent Hispanic and 11.5 percent of other race/ethnicity -- found young men were more likely than young women to engage in binge drinking.
White students were more likely than their black counterparts to binge drink, as were the children of college-educated parents -- though extreme binge drinking was more common among children whose parents were not college educated.
One drink was defined as 12 ounces (0.36 liters) of beer or a wine cooler, four ounces (0.12 liters) of wine, and one shot of liquor.
Although drinking as a whole has decreased among high school students since a peak in the 1970s, researchers said, the highest level of extreme binge drinking of 15 drinks or more in a row -- reported among 5.6 percent of the study sample -- has stayed steady since 2005.
"The documented rates of extreme binge drinking, and the fact that they have not changed across recent historical time, support the need for additional research to develop effective prevention and intervention strategies to reduce high-risk alcohol behaviors of youth," the authors write.
The legal drinking age in the US is 21, thanks to a 1984 federal law. Before that, the legal age varied by state, with many allowing alcohol purchases and consumption at 18.
High school seniors are typically 17 or 18 years old.