If you read my previous post about Inflating Binge Drinking Statistics, you’ve seen how data can be manipulated and essentially bent to any purpose. Today a second news item in U.S. News & World Report, 1 in 4 U.S. Teens and Young Adults Binge Drink, presents yet another portrait of reality using binge drinking data from the CDC.
This one focused more on underage drinking, declaring that 1 in 4 U.S. teens and young adults are binge drinkers. According to CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, “[n]inety percent of the alcohol consumed by high school students is consumed in the course of binge drinking.” Frieden goes on to say that “[a]mong drinkers, one-third of adults and two-thirds of high school kids binge drink, but doesn’t that contradict the 1 in 4 statistic and the 90% declaration? Which is it: 25%, 66% or 90%?
Beyond the fuzzy math, that high school students binge drink is a bit of a duh statistic, they don’t exactly have much choice under the circumstances. That’s because all underage drinking is done underground, none of it is out in the open. So any time they do get a chance to drink it’s without supervision. And that’s a direct result of the minimum age being 21 instead of 18 and also because not only is education not available, but is even considered criminal in some states. It was not unusual when I was a teenager for parties where alcohol was served to be chaperoned by parents with the full knowledge of other parents, too. Today, that would be cause in many places for arrests and jail time. But as a result of adult supervision, I never witnessed any problems at those parties and they were very safe. But thanks to zealotry and a no tolerance policy such safe environments are now impossible.
Another discrepancy is that in the U.S. News & World Report, the CDC claims that “more than 33 million adults have reported binge drinking in the past year.” That’s in contrast to the NPR story, in which the CDC claims that “half of all alcohol consumed by adults in the US is binge drinking.” Then on the CDC’s website there’s a map of the U.S. showing binge drinking averages by state, with the lowest state being Tennessee (with 6.8%) and the highest being Wisconsin (23.9%).