You have probably seen the video that circulated a few months back of a young lady drinking too much and later on passing out. Speculation after that was that she died but it turned out not to be true. Young people may think that ‘passing out’ is not something to worry about, however, drinking in that manner could also lead to death. Many reports have shown young people dying from consumption of alcohol taken in binge. Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above. This typically happens when men consume five or more drinks or women consume four or more drinks in about two hours. Dynamo Ndacyayisenga, the head of Drug Abuse Prevention and Management at Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC), says that binge drinking can be influenced by either peer pressure, group influence, or mental health issues. “There are many influences that could push a young person into binge drinking, even the way alcohol is viewed or taken at home, if a parent doesn’t talk to their child about the dangers of drinking too much or even if they don’t acknowledge their child’s drinking habit, this will give a child the mentality of thinking that there is no problem with exessive alcohol consumption,” he says. According to Ndacyayisenga’s 2021 research under the supervision of RBC, the morbidity of alcohol consumption in the Rwandan youth states that 23 per cent of young people aged 14 to 40 years were suffering from comorbidity of alcohol abuse and mental disability from alcohol abuse. Adele Murekatete, a mother of two—one a teenager, and the other in mid-twenties—is very concerned about the peer pressure among young people that can destroy their future. “I live with two children that are now exposed to peer pressure and group influence. Of course, a child needs freedom but they also need guidance. I believe talking to your children about these dangers also helps them to not be easily influenced when having fun with their friends. I have seen these trends where children drink recklessly and I always got worried about their health and security, as a parent we need to talk to our children and keep them aware about how binge drinking can dangerously turn their lives around,” she says. James Rugamba says he understands this all too well, dating back to a personal experience with his friends. “When you are out with your friends, you are meant to have fun, peer pressure is real and so is group influence, because when all your friends are cheering you on to gulp one shot in a second, you don’t know how to say no, so you give in until you’re drunk. Some do it with the purpose of getting drunk quickly, it happened to me but I didn’t face major problems but even the minor ones were enough to show me how dangerous it is to binge drink,” he says. Many young people have a theory that if you have low body weight you are more likely to get drunk fast, and if you have a normal weight or maybe over weight, getting drunk will take much longer. Ndacyayisenga strongly disagrees with this, saying, “Alcohol doesn’t care about someone’s weight, you are all at risk, the same dangers will affect you both, so drinking while thinking that nothing will happen to you because you have a healthy weight, well that is tricking your mind,” he says. Long and short term effects of binge drinking Ndacyayisenga says, “We have seen many young people dying of too much consumption of alcohol this year, even though there are short-term effects and long-term ones but there are also the ones that will take your life instantly,” he says. Heavy alcohol use increases the risk of stroke and can lead to dementia or impaired balance and coordination. The liver will have immediate effects from too much alcohol due to not being able to manage the amount you took. Some lose their sight due to brain damage from too much alcohol. In addition to alcohol dependency and addiction, heavy drinkers are at higher risk of depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Chronic heavy use of alcohol can reduce fertility in men and women and decrease a man’s sex drive. Drinking while pregnant can also affect the health of the foetus. Ndacyayisenga advises parents to support their children and young people not to initiate binge drinking. “There should be more ways to provide information on the dangers of binge drinking, and parents should also try to have a talk with their children about the dangers and educate them more on this issue. There should be positive parenting skills—consider checking their habits at home too,” he advises.