The ritual of drinking 21 or more alcoholic beverages to celebrate the 21st birthday appears to be far more common than expected, according to new research.
Jesse Drews died in March on his 21st birthday after a drinking binge. It's estimated that more than four out of every five American 21-year-olds drink alcohol to celebrate the birthday milestone, which is the the legal drinking age in the United States. But a new study from University of Missouri researchers of 2,518 students shows that many young adults aren't just drinking to celebrate — they are drinking to extremes.
Among those students who drank alcohol to celebrate their 21st birthdays, 34 percent of the men and 24 percent of the women reported consuming 21 or more drinks, according to the research to be published in The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. The report is believed to be the largest study of the drinking ritual, which often involves shots of alcohol.
Based on the data, researchers estimated that half of the men and more than a third of the women who drank on their birthdays experienced blood alcohol levels of 0.26 or higher, the level at which a person is severely impaired and at risk for choking on vomit or suffering serious injury. While researchers say it's possible some students overstated how much they actually drank, the consistency of the answers suggests that students are consuming large quantities of alcohol when they celebrate a 21st birthday.
"I think a lot of people view this as a feel-good rite of passage and don't calibrate what a big risk it is,'' said Kenneth Sher, professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia and the study's lead author.
One of the biggest worries about the ritual is alcohol poisoning. The body's ability to metabolize alcohol depends on several factors, including gender, weight, the type of alcohol, whether the person vomits during the binge and the time period during which the alcohol is consumed. But in some cases, as few as 10 drinks can push blood alcohol levels to 0.30, the point at which the respiratory system slows enough that death is possible.
Source: New York Times / MSNBC
I'm not sure what this is: Rite of passage, rite of ignorance or rite of stupidity... or all three? It's no surprise to me that many young adults celebrate their 21st
birthdays with drinking alcohol, but I am frankly astounded that SO
MANY of those who do, drink SO MUCH! Drinking that much certainly can't be "feel-good" for long! At some point, those drinking are going to get really, really drunk, followed by the obligatory vomiting and passing out. And then, the next day's hangover will be the gift that keeps on giving... How this experience can rise to the level of becoming a ritual for turning 21 is beyond me! I don't get it.
Parents, given that 80% or more of young adults turning 21 are going to drink to celebrate their birthday, it would be wise if beforehand, you have a conversation with them about this potentially deadly rite of passage!