Monday, January 23, 2012

Binge drinking is bigger problem than previously thought

“It takes only one drink to get me drunk. The trouble is, I can't remember if it's the thirteenth or the fourteenth.”
-George Burns
Anyone who has attended college has most likely observed (or even participated in) binge drinking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines binge drinking as consuming at least four drinks for women (five+ for men) on one occasion. More than 38 million U.S. adults binge drink an average of four times a month and frequently they don't stop at the 4-5 drink threshold. The binge average is now eight drinks according to a new Vital Signs report.  And it's not just the young adults (ages 18–34). There are drinkers age 65 and older who binge on average five to six times a month.

The CDC reports binge drinking is more common among household incomes of $75,000 or more, but households earning less than $25,000 drink more in one sitting (eight to nine drinks). Adult binge drinking is most common in the Midwest, New England, the District of Columbia, Alaska and Hawaii, the report said. However, binge drinkers consume more drinks in the southern part of the Mountain states (Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah), the Midwest, and some states where binge drinking is less common – including Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina.

Binge drinkers put themselves and others at risk for many health and social problems, including car crashes, other unintentional injuries, violence, liver disease, certain cancers, heart disease, sexually transmitted diseases, and both unintended and alcohol–exposed pregnancies.

Drinking too much causes more than 80,000 deaths in the United States each year, making it the third leading preventable cause of death. Over half of these deaths result from injuries that disproportionately involve young people.

“Binge drinking by adults has a huge public health impact, and influences the drinking behavior of underage youth by the example it sets,” said Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “We need to reduce binge drinking by adults to prevent the immediate and long–term effects it has on the health of adults and youth.”

Bottom Line

For more information about binge drinking and how to prevent this dangerous behavior, visit the CDC’s Alcohol and Public Health website at Members of the public who are concerned about their own or someone else's binge drinking can call 1–800–662–HELP to receive assistance from the national Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service.

For state–specific estimates of alcohol–related deaths and years of potential life lost by condition, visit the Alcohol–Related Disease Impact system at

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