The Dangers of Binge Drinking

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Binge drinking is a very dangerous practice that involves drinking to the point of intoxication, which is having five or more drinks in a row for men, and four or more drinks in a row for women. Binge drinking is dangerous for anyone of any age, but it’s a practice that is most prevalent among young adults.

With the widespread use, availability and social acceptance of alcohol in places like college campuses, nightclubs and bars, it becomes easy for people to binge drink. The behavior can easily feel comfortable in an environment where everyone is standing around a keg, taking shots at a bar or playing drinking games. How, then, can we educate young adults on the dangers of binge drinking and get them to take these warnings seriously?

First, let’s go over a few facts to bring to light the many dangers of binge drinking, according to national surveys and reported by the Centers for Disease Control.

  • Binge drinking is most common among 18-34 year olds.
  • One in six Americans binge drinks four times a month.
  • Binge drinkers 65 and older report binge drinking more often – five to six times a month.
  • Seventy percent of binge drinking episodes involve adults 26 years and older.
  • Approximately 90 percent of alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the US is in the form of binge drinking.
  • Over half of the alcohol consumed by adults over 21 is in the form of binge drinking.

Are you surprised by these findings? We were, too. Binge drinking is so commonly believed to be a teen or college thing, we often overlook the large majority of adults who continue to engage in this behavior. The more comfortable that people become with binge drinking, the more likely they are to engage in behaviors like drinking and driving or even showing up to work intoxicated. Of course, some of the riskiest behaviors come from the younger crowds, which is why binge drinking is associated with:

  • Injury or death due to falls, fires or drownings
  • Drunk driving
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Victims of rapes or sexual assaults
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Unplanned pregnancies
  • Battery and assault
  • Academic problems
  • Vandalism
  • Property damage
  • Suicide attempts
  • Alcohol abuse and dependence

Since drinking is a socially acceptable behavior, it can be difficult for some people to control the amount of alcohol they consume in social settings. While this is possible at any age, teens and young adults are more likely to over drink because they don’t know their limits, and they drink for the purpose of intoxication. Yet as the statistics tell us, these patterns don’t always go away just because a person graduates college or lands a steady job.

With binge drinking being such a large problem for young adults, there are a host of public health strategies designed to decrease underage and binge drinking. Examples of these strategies include responsible beverage service training, media campaigns, controls on alcohol advertising and community sponsorship of alcohol-free activities. Some of the few evidence-based interventions that we have include :

  • Increasing the cost of alcohol
  • Limiting the number of outlets that sell alcohol
  • Holding alcohol retailers responsible for harms done by underage patrons
  • Restricting access to alcohol (limiting hours, days alcohol is sold, etc.)
  • Consistent enforcement of laws against drinking and driving and underage drinking
  • Screening and counseling for alcohol abuse

After reading the statistics about binge drinking, it’s apparent that this problem is not exclusive to the younger set. Developing this habit at a young age can stick with a person well into adulthood and interfere with the ability to hold a steady job, maintain healthy relationships and make smart choices. Risky behavior on a regular basis can also open up other opportunities for binge drinkers to experiment with drugs such as marijuana, cocaine or prescription medications.

Alcohol IS a drug, and it holds the same types of risks as other drugs, including dependency, personality changes and poor health. Even with strict regulations, alcohol remains legal, and therefore, it’s easy for teens and adults to get their hands on it. The best we can do is continue to educate people on the real risks of binge drinking. Even if it doesn’t hit home for the individual drinker, we can hope that those around them will take responsibility by not allowing friends to drink and drive or engage in risky behavior.