More On Binge Drinking

College drinking graphic. Binge drinking, alcohol abuse, alcoholism. AP

Binge drinking is common among young adults and teenagers, and it is strongly linked to other risky behaviors, according to a new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report analyzed data from 15,000 U.S. high school students, and found that 64 percent of those who drank (just less than half of students) reported binge drinking.


What Is Binge Drinking?

"There is no consensus on the definition of binge drinking," according to The British Medical Association. In the past, the phrase has been used to refer to an extended period of time — two or more days — during which a person repeatedly drank to intoxication.

The CDC defines binge drinking as "a common pattern of excessive alcohol use" and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person's blood alcohol concentration to at least 0.08 percent.

Now, binge drinking is commonly defined for men as having five or more drinks of alcohol in a row and for women as having four or more consecutive drinks.

Who's Doing It?

About one-fifth of people ages 12 and older surveyed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2005 reported one or more episodes of binge drinking during the previous month. But college students and teens get most of the attention for their binge drinking habits.

A landmark Harvard study set the standard for the way colleges think about binge drinking in 1997. It showed two-fifths of college students were binge drinkers — and close to 20 percent were frequent binge drinkers.

The new CDC study focused on teenagers. Boys and girls reported similar rates of binge drinking — 67 percent and 61 percent, respectively. Among the students who engaged in binge drinking, 69 percent reported doing so multiple times in the past month.

Each year, college students spend approximately $4.2 billion annually to purchase 430 million gallons of alcoholic beverages — including more than 4 billion cans of beer, according to WebMD.

Although college students commonly binge drink, 70 percent of binge drinking episodes involve adults over age 25, according to a 2003 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

What Is The Toll Of Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is associated with many health problems, including:
  • Unintentional or intentional injuries
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Children born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • High blood pressure, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases
  • Liver disease
  • Neurological damage
  • Poor control of diabetes

  • Where Are The Bingers?

    Utah, Oregon and states in the deep South have the lowest rates of binge drinking in the country, while states in the Midwest and Great Plains have some of the highest rates, says a government study released in 2005.

    Boston scored high in that category, too, with nearly 30 percent of respondents acknowledging binge drinking. But the Northeast and Southeast regions of North Dakota reported binge drinking among 32 percent of residents of that age group. Overall, North Dakota had the highest rate of binge drinking when compared with other states - 29.2 percent.

    North Dakota's rate was nearly double the 16 percent rate for Utah, which had the lowest binge drinking rate in the nation, the survey found.

    Learn More

  • Check out the CDC's quick statistics on binge drinking.
  • Read a report on teen drinking from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  • Click here for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  • Check out the Harvard School of Public Health's landmark study in college binge drinking.

    • Christine Lagorio

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