Binge drinking is a common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks, and when women consume 4 or more drinks, in about 2 hours.1
Most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent.
According to national surveys
- Approximately 92% of U.S. adults who drink excessively report binge drinking in the past 30 days.2
- Although college students commonly binge drink, 70% of binge drinking episodes involve adults over age 25 years.3
- The prevalence of binge drinking among men is 2 times the prevalence among women.4
- Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers.3
- About 90% of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 years in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.5
- About 75% of the alcohol consumed by adults in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.5
- The proportion of current drinkers that binge is highest in the 18- to 20-year-old group (51%).3
Binge drinking is associated with many health problems, including but not limited to
- Unintentional injuries (e.g., car crashes, falls, burns, drowning).
- Intentional injuries (e.g., firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence).
- Alcohol poisoning.
- Sexually transmitted diseases.
- Unintended pregnancy.
- Children born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
- High blood pressure, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.
- Liver disease.
- Neurological damage.
- Sexual dysfunction.
- Poor control of diabetes.
Evidence-based interventions to prevent binge drinking and related harms6,7,8,9,10 include
- Increasing alcoholic beverage costs and excise taxes.
- Limiting the number of retail alcohol outlets that sell alcoholic beverages in a given area.
- Consistent enforcement of laws against underage drinking and alcohol-impaired driving.
- Screening and counseling for alcohol misuse.
- National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. NIAAA council approves definition of binge drinking. NIAAA Newsletter 2004; No. 3, p. 3. Available at http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Newsletter/winter2004/Newsletter_Number3.pdf (PDF). Accessed March 31, 2008.
- Town M, Naimi TS, Mokdad AH, Brewer RD. Health care access among U.S. adults who drink alcohol excessively: missed opportunities for prevention. Prev Chronic Dis [serial online] April 2006. Accessed March 31, 2008.
- Naimi TS, Brewer RD, Mokdad A, Clark D, Serdula MK, Marks JS. Binge drinking among US adults. JAMA 2003;289(1):70–75.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System prevalence data. Atlanta, GA: CDC. Available at www.cdc.gov/brfss. Accessed March 27, 2008.
- Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Drinking in America: Myths, Realities, and Prevention Policy. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2005. Available at http://www.udetc.org/documents/Drinking_in_America.pdf* (PDF). Accessed March 28, 2008.
- Babor TF, Caetano, R., Casswell S, et al. Alcohol and Public Policy: No Ordinary Commodity. New York: Oxford University Press; 2003
- The Community Guide. Alcohol Abuse and Misuse Prevention. Interventions Directed to the General Population. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008. Available at http://www.thecommunityguide.org/alcohol/default.htm.* Date accessed: May 9, 2008.
- National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2004.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2007. Available at http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/underagedrinking/. Accessed May 9, 2008.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening and behavioral counseling interventions in primary care to reduce alcohol misuse: recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med 2004;140:554–556.
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Page last reviewed: August 6, 2008
Page last modified: August 6, 2008
Content source: Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion