Binge drinking is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States.1,2,3 The National Institute on 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 or women consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours.4 Most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent.1
Who binge drinks?
Source: 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey and Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System5,6
- One in six US 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.5
- Binge drinking is most common among younger adults aged 18–34 years, but more than half of the total binge drinks are consumed by those aged 35 and older.5
- Binge drinking is twice as common among men than among women. Four in five total binge drinks are consumed by men.5
- Binge drinking is more common among people with household incomes of $75,000 or more and higher educational levels. Binge drinkers with lower incomes and educational levels, however, consume more binge drinks per year.5
- Over 90% of U.S. adults who drink excessively report binge drinking in the past 30 days.1
- Most people younger than age 21 who drink alcohol report binge drinking, usually on multiple occasions.6,7
Binge drinking has serious risks.
- Binge drinking is associated with many health problems,8–10 including the following:
- 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 costs everyone.
Drinking too much, including binge drinking, cost the United States $249 billion in 2010, or $2.05 a drink. These costs resulted from losses in workplace productivity, health care expenditures, criminal justice costs, and other expenses. Binge drinking was responsible for 77% of these costs, or $191 billion.2
Preventing binge drinking
- The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends evidence-based interventions to prevent binge drinking and related harms.11 Recommended strategies include:
- Using pricing strategies, including increasing alcohol taxes.
- Limiting the number of retail alcohol outlets that sell alcoholic beverages in a given area.
- Holding alcohol retailers responsible for the harms caused by illegal alcohol sales to minors or intoxicated patrons (dram shop liability).
- Restricting access to alcohol by maintaining limits on the days and hours of alcohol retail sales.
- Consistently enforcing laws against underage drinking and alcohol-impaired driving.
- Maintaining government controls on alcohol sales (avoiding privatization).
- Screening and counseling for alcohol misuse.