Share This Post
Binge Drinking Statistics. Dangers of Excessive Recreational Alcohol Use
St. Patrick’s Day is a fun holiday that is associated with leprechauns, four-leaf clovers, the color green, and beer. Unfortunately, this annual celebration has become an excuse for binge drinking and getting drunk, putting those who partake in St. Patty’s Day festivities in danger.
Binge drinking is becoming more common in the United States, and it is often deadly, but it is completely preventable. Below are some statistics about the prevalence of binge drinking and the risks and dangers associated with it.
What is Considered Binge Drinking?
According to the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, moderate drinking is up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
Binge drinking, on the other hand, is defined as:
- A pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men—in about 2 hours (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism -NIAAA).
- 5 or more alcoholic drinks for males or 4 or more alcoholic drinks for females on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the past month (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – SAMHSA).
- Heavy alcohol use as described as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month, according to SAMHSA.
What is Considered One Drink?
It is also important to define what one drink is because beverages vary in size and alcohol content. According to NIAAA, a standard drink contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:
- 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol
- 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol
- 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol
Consequences of Binge Drinking
Binge drinking is dangerous because it raises the blood alcohol level to critical values which causes immediate danger to the body, and because it quickly impacts the individual’s decision-making ability, leading to other dangers and undesirable consequences.
The CDC summarizes the following consequences of binge drinking:
- Unintentional injuries such as car crashes, falls, burns, and alcohol poisoning.
- Violence including homicide, suicide, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault.
- Sexually transmitted diseases.
- Unintended pregnancy and poor pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage and stillbirth.
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
- Sudden infant death syndrome.
- Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease.
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
- Memory and learning problems.
- Alcohol dependence.
Binge drinking also has long-term consequences:
Males who are binge drinkers in adolescence are twice as likely to binge drink in adulthood, and females who are binge drinkers in adolescence are more than three times as likely to binge drink in adulthood, according to a 2004 study published in Pediatrics. Adolescent binge drinkers are also three times more likely to develop an alcohol-related disorder as an adult, especially when the person begins drinking in early adolescence.
Binge Drinking Trends
- One in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about eight drinks per binge (CDC).
- Binge drinking is most common among younger adults aged 18–34 years, but is reported across the lifespan (CDC).
- The prevalence of binge drinking among men is twice the prevalence among women (CDC).
- Binge drinking is more common among people with household incomes of $75,000 or more than among people with lower incomes. However, people with lower incomes binge drink more often and consume more drinks when they do (CDC).
- Over 90% of U.S. adults who drink excessively report binge drinking in the past 30 days (CDC).
- Most people younger than age 21 who drink report binge drinking, usually on multiple occasions (CDC).
- Rates of binge drinking nationally are highest among those ages 18 to 25 years (NSDUH).
- Less than a quarter of individuals over the age of 26 nationally have engaged in past-month binge drinking (22.3%) (NSDUH).
- One in ten (9.7%) older adults between the ages of 55 and 64 years have engaged in binge drinking within the past month (CDC).
Cost of Binge Drinking
Drinking too much, including binge drinking, cost the United States $249 billion in 2010, or $2.05 a drink. These costs were due to loss of productivity in the workplace, health care costs, justice system costs, and other related expenses. Binge drinking was responsible for 77% of these costs, or $191 billion, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
Binge drinking is hazardous to one’s health, and leads to alcohol poisoning and death:
- Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths in the United States from 2006 – 2010, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years (CDC).
- Excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 years (CDC).
- An estimated 2,221 people older than 15 died of alcohol poisoning each year from 2010 to 2012. About 76% were men and nearly 77% were aged 35 to 64. Just 5% were aged 15 to 24 (CDC).
In conclusion, excessive drinking is not worth all the risk, physical and psychological harm, and cost associated with it. If you decide to go out to celebrate with friends, remember the danger you put yourself in. Make wise choices, establish a plan ahead of time, and ask for help from a friend or loved one to hold you accountable. With a little education and prevention, we can make holidays like St. Patrick’s Day safer for everyone.