From time to time, we Wisconsinites indulge in a few adult beverages. And sometimes, those “few” turn into more than we had expected. Enter: Binge drinking. It’s the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. 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 more. This typically happens when men consume five or more drinks, and when women consume four or more drinks, in about two hours.
According to national surveys:
- One in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about eight drinks per binge.
- While binge drinking is more common among young adults aged 18 to 34 years, binge drinkers aged 65 years and older report binge drinking more often—an average of five to six times a month.
- Although college students commonly binge drink, 70 percent of binge drinking episodes involve adults age 26 years and older.
- Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers.
- More than half of the alcohol consumed by adults in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
How does alcohol affect a person?
Alcohol affects every organ in the body. It is a central nervous system depressant that is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream. Alcohol is metabolized in the liver by enzymes. However, the liver can only metabolize a small amount of alcohol at a time, leaving the excess alcohol to circulate throughout the body. The intensity of the effect of alcohol on the body is directly related to the amount consumed.
What is a standard drink in the United States?
A standard drink is equal to 14.0 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in:
How can binge drinking affect your health?
- 12 ounces of beer (5 percent alcohol content)
- 8 ounces of malt liquor (7 percent alcohol content)
- 5 ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol content)
- 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40 percent alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)
Binge drinking is associated with many health problems, including:
- Unintentional injuries (e.g., car crashes, falls, burns, drowning)
- Intentional injuries (e.g., firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence)
- Alcohol poisoning
- Children born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
- High blood pressure, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases
- Liver disease
- Neurological damage
- Poor control of diabetes
- Cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon and breast
What is the impact of binge drinking?
Excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for about 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) in the United States each year. Binge drinking is responsible for more than half of the deaths and two-thirds of the YPLL due to excessive drinking, and is associated with many health and social problems, including alcohol-impaired driving and interpersonal violence.
For more information about alcohol abuse and treatment options, contact Prevea Behavioral Care at (920) 272-1200.