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CDC: Binge Drinking Bigger Problem Than We Thought

By January 17, 2012

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Binge drinking in the United States is a more widespread problem than previously thought with more people drinking more alcohol more often than originally estimated. According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38 million Americans binge drink and average of four times per month.

Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks for men or four or more for women in a short period of time.

CDC researchers were surprised to learn that more U. S. adults than estimated binge drink more frequently and consume more drinks when they do. The study showed that the number of drinks per binge-drinking session averages 8 standard drinks.

CDC scientists analyzed data from 458,000 U.S. adults 18 years or older on self-reports of binge drinking within the past 30 days from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

Who Is Binge Drinking?

Some of the significant findings of the CDC research include:

  • Binge drinking is more common young adults age 18-34.
  • However, binge drinkers over 65 years old binge more often (five or six times a month).
  • Binge drinking is more common in households with incomes over $75,000.

  • However, binge drinkers with household incomes less than $25,000 drink more drinks per session (an average between 8 and 9 drinks)
Key Facts About Binge Drinkers

Here are some other key findings of the CDC study:

  • Most drunken drivers are binge drinkers.
  • Most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent or alcoholics.
  • More than half of the alcohol adults consume is while binge drinking.
  • More than 90% of the alcohol youth consume is while binge drinking.

Why Is Binge Drinking a Problem?

It is estimated that binge drinking or heavy drinking causes 80,000 deaths each year in the U.S. but the costs to society also add up in healthcare expense, crime and lost productivity.

  • In 2006, binge drinking cost the economy $223.5 billion or about $746 per person or $1.90 per drink.
  • Federal and state governments take in about 12 cents per drink on alcohol taxes while binge drinking cost those governments about 62 cents per drink in 2006.
  • Drinking too much contributes to 54 different injuries and diseases.
  • Binge drinking often significantly increases the chance of getting sick or dying from alcohol-related problems.
Both the CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said that the key to reducing the dangerous levels of binge drinking in the U.S. lies with prevention programs on the local level.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Binge Drinking: Nationwide Problem, Local Solutions," Vital Signs. January 2012.

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