According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), binge drinking is the most common and dangerous pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that occurs after four drinks for women and five drinks for men — assuming the drinks are consumed within about two hours. Although most people who binge drink are not alcoholics, alcoholism is a progressive disease and binge drinking could lead to alcohol dependence over time.
Binging by the Numbers
According to the CDC:
- Despite the serious risks caused by binge drinking, one in six adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about seven drinks per binge. This results in 17 billion total binge drinks consumed by adults annually, or 467 binge drinks per binge drinker.
- Binge drinking is most common among younger adults aged 18–34 years old, but more than half of the total binge drinks are consumed by those aged 35 and older.
- Binge drinking is twice as common among men as among women.
- Binge drinking is more common among people with household incomes of $75,000 or more and higher educational levels.
- Over 90% of U.S. adults who drink excessively report binge drinking in the past 30 days.
- Most people younger than age 21 who drink alcohol report binge drinking, usually on multiple occasions.
Binge drinking carries serious health risks and can cause many health problems. The CDC reports that excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost each year in the United States from 2006 – 2010, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years. The same report showed excessive drinking was responsible for one in 10 deaths among working adults aged 20-64 years.
Other dangers of binge drinking include:
- Unintentional injuries such as car crashes, falls, burns, and alcohol poisoning.
- Violence including homicide, suicide, domestic 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, digestive problems and liver disease.
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and colon.
- Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.
- Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
- Social problems, including lost productivity, family problems and unemployment.
Binging or Alcoholism?
Though binge drinkers consume in great quantity, they are typically not alcohol-dependent. While many rely on alcohol to relieve stress or to get over their social anxiety, this does not constitute alcohol dependence.
However, over time, binging can progress into a daily mental and physical need for alcohol. The health risks for heavy drinkers and alcoholics are very similar in danger and diagnosis.
To learn more about the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction talk to a professional trained in diagnosing and treating the disease. At Valley Hope, experts are available to answer questions in complete confidence 24/7.
Unsure if you or someone close to you has a problem with alcohol? The signs are not always as obvious as you might think. How do you know for sure? The medical and counseling staff at Valley Hope can provide a professional evaluation and, if needed, recommendations for treatment. In the meantime, the CAGE questionnaire is a widely accepted self-assessment tool. If you answer “Yes” to just two or more of the questions, you may have a problem with addiction and should seek the help of a professional.
Take an online assessment now at valleyhope.org. If you feel like you or a loved one need help immediately, we’re here 24/7. Call (800) 544-5101.