National Report Shows 1 in 4 Young Adults Are Binge Drinkers

A new report by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that more than 1 in 4 teenagers and young adults (ages 18 to 34) engage in binge drinking. Even though the dangerous behavior of binge drinking has the potential to lead to immediate health and safety risks, binge drinking occurs almost 4 million times a day among U.S. adults.

In its latest report, the CDC outlines the prevalence of binge drinking across the U.S.; it is a common, dangerous, yet unrecognized public health hazard that has not varied in the past 15 years. After analyzing data gathered from nearly 412,000 U.S. adults from the 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and 16,000 high school students from the 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) who all self-reported their binge drinking activity within the past 30 days, the CDC estimates that more than 33 million adults (15%) engage in current binge drinking behavior. Binge drinking is defined as the consumption of four or more drinks by women and five or more drinks by men during a short period of time.

The pattern of binge drinking behavior varies widely across the U.S. Although the rate of past-month binge drinking behavior remained relatively the same in 29 states from 1993 to 2009, binge drinking increased in 20 states and dropped in only 2 states during this time period. Tennessee, for example, had an overall binge drinking rate of 6.8%, while Wisconsin had a binge drinking rate of 23.9%. Based on its latest data, the CDC is encouraging state and local governments to strategize on how to better ensure public safety by reducing the occurrence of excessive alcohol consumption in social environments.

According to the report, men are more than twice as likely as women to engage in binge drinking (21% vs. 10%), and binge drinking is more prevalent among non-Hispanic whites than in non-Hispanic blacks (16% of whites who drink vs. 10% of blacks who drink). Based on the surveys, binge drinking was most common among men, adults ages 18–34, and those whose annual household incomes were $75,000 or greater. Even though binge drinking is common among all age groups, the report found that nearly 2 out of 3 teenagers who drink engage in binge drinking behavior (60%). Although binge drinkers are not likely to be alcoholics or have an alcohol dependency problem, they are highly susceptible to risky behavior that can endanger their health as well as that of those around them. The CDC states that binge drinking can lead to greater impairment, and increases the risk of drunk driving, fatal vehicular accidents, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, unplanned pregnancies, sudden infant death syndrome, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, violence, and drug overdose.

Many binge drinkers might assume that because they do not drink often, they do not pose a threat to themselves or to others, especially since they usually do not have an alcohol dependency problem. Yet when they do drink, these individuals consume more alcohol than average drinkers, which tends to cause them to make impulsive decisions without regard of health and safety consequences. Even though the data gathered in the report shows that binge drinking behavior has remained steady among the adult population over the years, the statistics on alcohol sales indicates that Americans may be consuming more alcohol than they report. Binge drinking can lead to multiple adverse long-term health conditions including liver disease, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other diseases, and can also influence the drinking behavior of children of binge-drinking adults. Excess drinking, according to the CDC, causes more than 79,000 deaths per year in the U.S., and remains the nation’s third leading cause of preventable death.

For individuals who believe they have a binge drinking problem, or are concerned about someone who does, the CDC recommends that they call the national Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service at 1-800-662-HELP.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,1 in 4 High School Students and Young Adults Report Binge Drinking, October 5, 2010