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Survey: 5 Percent of Young Adults Drive Every Time They Drink

March 25, 1996

CHICAGO (AP) _ They belly up to the bar, then slide behind the wheel.

Five percent of the young adults responding to a new drinking survey said they drive every time they consume alcoholic beverages.

The American Medical Association survey of 18- to 30-year-olds also found 40 percent drink to levels that impair judgment and physical performance and about one in every five are binge drinkers.

``The results demonstrate a sad, unconscionable waste of talent and potential by our country’s young people,″ said Nancy Dickey, chair of the AMA’s board of trustees.

Although more than a third of the 800 people questioned in the survey said they do not drink, 19 percent said they are frequent binge drinkers and 7 percent say they binge every time they drink alcohol.

Binge drinking is defined as the consumption of five or more drinks in one sitting by a male or four or more by a female.

Men drink more often _ and more heavily _ than women, the survey found.

Only 27 percent of the male respondents said they don’t drink, but 42 percent of the women said they abstain. And 31 percent of the men admitted to binge drinking, while the figure for women was 16 percent.

Men also are more likely to drink and drive, the survey indicated. Seven percent say they drink and drive all the time, while only 2 percent of the women said they drove after drinking. The random telephone survey had a margin of error of 3 1/2 percentage points.

The survey found that while college graduates are more likely to drink than those who only finished high school, high school graduates are more likely to drink heavily. The 19- and 20-year-old age group appeared to be most vulnerable.

Mary Dufor, deputy director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Bethesda, Md., wasn’t surprised by the survey’s results, but said there’s no reason to take the statistics for granted.

``Around 14,000 and 15,000 people die every year in alcohol-related crashes,″ she said. ``We can’t get complacent about this.

``Not only are young people more inexperienced drinkers but inexperienced drivers, as well,″ Dufor said. ``That tends to be a deadly combination.″

The AMA is creating a new office of Alcohol and Other Substances. In May, it plans to announce a new long-term public health education program to combat alcohol abuse.

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