What Is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is becoming a growing problem across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is a serious public health concern can be prevented. It is the most common, a deadly pattern, and the most expensive pattern of excessive use of alcohol in the U.S.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern involving excessive consumption of alcohol that leads to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that is .08 or higher. A BAC of .08 is considered legally drunk and can lead to DUI charges. Binge drinking involves a woman consuming four or more drinks within two hours or a man consuming more than five drinks within a two-hour period. Most people who participate in binge drinking aren’t dependent on alcohol.
Who in the U.S. Binge Drinks?
According to the CDC, a variety of people participate in binge drinking. One out of every six adults in the U.S. binge drinks about four times every month. On average, they consume seven drinks per binge.
Broken down, this is 17 billion total binge drinks consumed annually by adults, or 467 drinks consumed per binge drinker each year. Men are two times as likely as women to engage in binge drinking. Binge drinking is more common in the younger population ages 18 to 34, but more than half of all binge drinks are consumed by those ages 35 and older.
People with higher educational levels and household incomes of more than $75,000 are much more likely to binge drink. But, those with lower incomes and lower educational levels consume more drinks while binge drinking.
The CDC reports that 90% of adults who have drunk excessively report that they had engaged in some level of binge drinking during the last 30 days. The study revealed that most people who are younger than 21 who consume alcohol reported binge drinking, usually in large amounts.
Health Problems Caused By Binge Drinking
Numerous health issues are linked to binge drinking. Here are a few of those medical conditions:
- Sexually transmitted disease
- Unintentional injuries, such as falls or car crashes
- Alcohol poisoning
- Violence, such as suicide, sexual assault, homicide, and domestic violence
- Sudden infant death syndrome
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
- Chronic conditions, including heart conditions, liver conditions, stroke, hypertension
- Unintended pregnancy
- Poor pregnancy outcomes, including stillbirth and miscarriage
- Cancer – colon, esophagus, liver, mouth, breast, and throat
- Learning Difficulty
- Memory problems
- Alcohol dependence
The Costs of Binge Drinking
Drinking too much and binge drinking is costly. It costs the U.S. $2.05 per drink, or $249 billion, during 2010. These costs are from reduced workplace productivity, criminal justice costs, healthcare costs, and more.
Binge drinking itself was responsible for $191 billion of the costs, or 77% of the overall expenses. Binge drinking costs us all, not just the person who does the drinking. Binge drinking also leads to property damage, loss of life, and many other problems that affect those around us.
By reducing the amount of binge drinking that is occurring, it is saving everyone time and money in the long run and improving productivity in the workplace, freeing up the judicial system, and allowing health care providers to address other issues.
Preventing Binge Drinking
Binge drinking or excessive drinking can be prevented. There are several strategies recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force to help reduce binge drinking. Those strategies include:
- Limiting the number of retail outlets to sell alcohol in an area
- Using pricing strategies, including higher alcohol taxes
- Making alcohol retailers liable for the harm caused by sales to minors or intoxicated customers
- Restricting alcohol access by limiting purchase days and hours
- Enforcing laws against driving while intoxicated and underage drinking
- Offering screening and counseling for alcohol abuse
Seeking Treatment for Alcohol Disorders
There are many treatment options for those who are abusing alcohol. Not all people can benefit from the same treatment program. Your healthcare provider will take the time to understand your situation and get to know your needs, so a personalized treatment plan can be developed to help you overcome your difficulties and avoid further problems.
If you or a loved one is binge drinking or suffering from alcohol abuse problems, you should seek the guidance of a professional alcohol abuse treatment center and/or counselor. The earlier you seek intervention, the more likely a full recovery. Because binge drinking can have lasting effects, you want to stop the problem right away to avoid permanent damage to one’s health.