Politics | Portrayal of R.I. Teen Binge Drinking Far off the Mark

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Sources

Interview, Jeffrey E. Jarrett, University of Rhode Island professor of finance decision science, Dec. 18

Email, Jeanne S. McVey, spokeswoman, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Dec. 13

PCRM.org, "Ads Slam Alcohol Experiments on Live Animals," Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, accessed Dec. 18

SAMHSA.gov, "Table 2.42B Alcohol Use, Binge Alcohol Use, and Heavy Alcohol Use in the Past Month among Persons Aged 12 or Older, by Demographic Characteristics: Percentages, 2011 and 2012," Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, accessed Dec. 18

Health.RI.gov, "2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results," Question 44, Rhode Island Department of Health, accessed Dec. 18

CDC.gov, "Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, United States, 2011," accessed Dec. 13, and "Youth Online; High School YRBS Rhode Island 2011 and United States 2011 Results," accessed Dec. 18, both from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

"Rhode Island's teen binge drinking rate is double the national average."

Rhode Island was treated to an interesting do-the-ends-justify- the-means debate recently when the Washington, D.C.-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine criticized a research study by Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University that uses young pigs to study the effects of alcohol consumption on the heart.

Besides objecting to the treatment of the animals involved, the committee argued that the money spent on such research could be better used elsewhere in the Ocean State.

To drive that point home, the committee has begun an advertising campaign with posters on five Providence bus shelters, claiming "Rhode Island's teen binge drinking rate is double the national average. But Brown researchers are not helping teens. Instead, they are wasting federal funds on experiments giving alcohol to piglets."

We'll pass on whether getting pigs drunk is a waste of federal money. But we wondered whether Rhode Island's rate of teen binge drinking is that high.

Two federal agencies that track teenage alcohol use, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, define binge drinking as having five or more drinks at the same occasion, at the same time or within a couple of hours.

Physicians Committee spokeswoman Jeanne S. McVey said the group came up with its statistic by using data from two federal agencies that track, among other things, alcohol use by the nation's teenagers.

She cited a 2012 survey by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that found that 7.2 percent of respondents ages 12 to 17 nationwide reported at least one instance of binge drinking over the previous 30 days.

But that study didn't break down its findings by state. …