- Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) and Breathalyzer Studies
A small number of studies
to date have used either an objective measure (usual breathalyzer
samples) or an estimated blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to test
the ability of the so-called 5/4* or "binge drinking" measure
to identify high-risk drinkers. A number of studies using breathalyzer
samples have found that the widely used 5/4 measure classifies many
college students as "binge drinkers" even though their BAC
levels are below the thresholds conventionally used to define drunkenness
(Beirness et al., 2004; Foss et al., 2004; Lange and Voas, 2001; Thombs et al., 2002;). Another study
examined the estimated blood alcohol levels reached by so-called "binge"
and "nonbinge" drinkers (as defined by the 5/4 measure),
finding that "a sizable percentage of young adults…who
would be labeled as 'binge drinkers'…actually do not reach estimated
maximum BAC levels that public health experts associate with impairment
(Perkins et al., 2001, p. 319).
The findings from one of
these studies has been an integral part of a social norms intervention
at a large university which has resulted in reduced misperceptions
of peer alcohol use as well as reductions in actual consumption (Foss, Marchetti, et al., 2000; Foss, 2004). The findings from another breathalyzer study are being used
in a social norms project reportedly underway at Kent State University
The 5/4 measure: 5 or more drinks at an occasion for a male and 4
or more drinks at an occasion for a female.
Beirness, D.J., Foss, R.D., Vogel-Sprott, M. Drinking on Campus: Self-Reports and Breath Tests. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 65: 600-604, 2004.
K. College students magnify drinking: Breath tests at Kent
State show exaggeration. Akron Beacon Journal. Monday, July 14, 2003.
Foss, R.L., Marchetti, L.J., and Holladay, K.A.
Development and Evaluation of a Comprehensive Program to Reduce Drinking and Impaired Driving Among College Students: Final Report. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, October 2000.
R. et al. Social norms program reduces measured and self-reported
drinking at UNC-CH [University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill]. The
Report on Social Norms: Working Paper #14. Little Falls, NJ, PaperClip
J.E. and Voas, R.B. Defining Binge drinking quantities through
resulting blood alcohol concentrations. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.
H.W., DeJong, W. and Linkenbach, J. Estimated blood alcohol
levels reached by "binge" and "nonbinge" drinkers:
a survey of young adults in Montana. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.
D.L., Olds, R.S., and Snyder, B.M. Field assessment of BAC
data to study late-night college drinking. Journal of Studies on Alcohol.
May 2003: 322-330.