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Binge drinking is on the rise, but HEARTS is making a difference

Binge drinking is on the rise, but HEARTS is making a difference

We have some bad news and some good news.

The bad news is that binge drinking is on the rise across the country and across age groups.

The good news is that HEARTS for Families has been targeting the factors that have led to this increase in Georgia for years.

The bad news: An increase in binge drinking

A study conducted from 2002-2012 by University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that binge drinking is up more than 17% in some parts of the U.S. since 2005.

The rate of binge drinking spiked for women (17.5% for women versus just 4.9% for men), but the most shocking statistic from the study reveled that the number of drinkers has not changed, just the number of binge drinkers.

In 2012, 18.3% of Americans were binge drinkers – an increase of nearly 9% since 2005. But in both 2005 and 2012, 56% of Americans said they drank alcohol.

This is just as dangerous as it sounds. Heavy drinkers set themselves up for liver disease and many forms of cancer, while binge drinkers not only suffer from health effects but damage to their jobs, marriages and friendships and have an increased risk of vehicle accidents.

According to Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, with the increase in binge drinking, we are seeing an increase in health and safety problems. “We have seen an increase in the same time period of hospitalizations due to alcohol and emergency room visits due to alcohol,” Koob told NBC News.

The good news: HEARTS for Families is making a difference

 In addition to the statistics revealed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, they also commented on the factors that contribute to the increase in binge drinking: social norms, socioeconomic and education factors, and availability.

HEARTS for Families’ Alcohol Prevention Project has been addressing all of these factors in Georgia for years. The following are just a few ways we have been combating them.

Social norms

Did you know that people’s behavior is influenced by their perceptions of what is “normal” or “typical?” Unfortunately, too often we severely misperceive the typical behaviors or attitudes of our peers – as is the case with teens and underage drinking.

While many people just assume drinking alcohol is what teens do, the statistics show that ¾ of teens don’t drink! We are working to spread the news about this positive “norm” or “typical” behavior. We conduct surveys at middle schools and high schools across Georgia about underage drinking and create posters, binders and banners displaying the statistics that help students understand that drinking is not the norm. According to our student focus groups, one of the most well received statistics at every school is the one that reports that the majority of middle school and high school students would prefer to date a non-drinker.

In addition to communicating positive community norms, we created the Give Yourself a Chance program. Give Yourself a Chance is an underage drinking prevention campaign targeted at middle and high school students. Through schools, youth programs and online channels we share with youth the dangers of underage drinking and encourage them to give themselves a chance at a great life by avoiding alcohol and other drugs.

Socioeconomic and education factors

At HEARTS we know that education is vital to making good choices – for parents and youth.

To help parents and youth prevent substance use, we offer our Guiding Good Choices parenting programs , SMART Moves and All Stars.

The Guiding Good Choices Program is a multimedia substance abuse prevention program that gives parents of children ages 9–14 the knowledge and skills needed to guide their children through early adolescence. This program is designed to help parents reduce the likelihood that their children will develop problems with drugs and alcohol in adolescence.

The SMART Moves (Skills Mastery and Resistance Training) prevention/education program addresses problems such as drug and alcohol use and premature sexual activity. More than simply emphasizing a “Say No” message, the program teaches parents of young people ages 6 to 15 how to say no by involving them in discussion and role-playing, practicing resistance and refusal skills, developing assertiveness, strengthening decision-making skills and analyzing media and peer influence.

For youth, we offer All Stars programs. All Stars programs reach youth during the years of greatest vulnerability to experimenting with substances, fighting, bullying, and initiating sexual activity. During this period – from the last years of elementary school through high school – young people experience amazing changes. All Stars participants work on building their personal futures by setting goals and building a strong positive character.


Parents are one of the biggest influences on youth’s decision to drink. We teach adults about talking to their kids about drinking and reducing the temptation to drink by supervising their children and restricting access to alcohol.

We also take our cause to businesses and the government. In regions across Georgia, we promote Responsible Beverage Server Training for storeowners, encourage all adults including storeowners to advertise their commitment to “Being the Wall” between teens and alcohol and educate officials on the importance of social hosting ordinances. In fact, this year we succeeded in getting Jonesboro to pass a social host ordinance!

None of this work could be done without the help of community members and organizations and we always need more people! Please help us combat the increase in binge drinking and prevent underage drinking in Georgia and across the U.S. Connect with us on Facebook or Twitter to raise awareness and contact us about how you and your community can get involved in our Alcohol Prevention Project.

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