If you were to ask most Americans how they relax at the end of a long week, some of the most popular responses would almost certainly involve going out for drinks. Indeed, research studies conducted by the Center for Disease Control in recent years found that at least 38 million Americans binge drink at least occasionally: that is, they have at least four or five drinks in a sitting, and in most cases, even more than that. More specifically, the CDC describes binge drinking as activity that brings someone’s blood alcohol content (BAC) above .08 grams percent.
Additional Binge Drinking Facts
While it is clear that many Americans not only drink but drink heavily, it is helpful to consider binge drinking data as it correlates to certain demographic information. Though binge drinking is technically more common among younger adults (in the 18-34 year old range), older adults (65 years or above) who binge drink, actually do it more frequently: that is, upwards of five to six times each month. Binge drinking also occurs in different frequencies among disparate economic groups, as households with an income of over $75,000 per year saw more binge drinking than households with lower incomes. Thanks to media portrayals of wild college parties and freely-flowing beer taps, many people assume that binge drinking is primarily a phenomenon among college students; however, the opposite is true. 70% of all instances of binge drinking occur in individuals over the age of 26, although, of the other 30% of people who binge drink, 90% of those are underage drinkers. Finally, evidence shows that twice as many men will binge drink than women.
Binge Drinking Risks
Because of the volume of alcohol consumed, binge drinking is far riskier behavior than casual drinking, and the risk factors multiply as an individual’s incidences of binge drinking increase. With binge drinking comes a serious risk of injury, whether through an accidental fall or as the outcome of a dispute that comes about as a result of an alcohol-fueled temper. Sexual behaviors that accompany regular binge drinking can result in lowered inhibitions and risky sexual behaviors, leading to contraction of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or an unwanted pregnancy. A particularly harrowing statistic shows that binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to drive under the influence than those who do not binge drink. Additionally, long-term binge drinking can have deleterious and permanent effects on the body. Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to liver disease, particularly if fatty liver disease progresses into alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis of the liver. Heavy drinking over the years can lead to neurological issues, high blood pressure, and, in its most extreme iteration, alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal. While a single instance of binge drinking will not bring on all of these side effects, they are nearly inescapable if binge drinking becomes a habit, rather than an aberration.
How to stop?
While many people will be able to avoid the risks of binge drinking by keeping a watchful eye on the drinking and occasionally abstaining, others who struggle with alcoholism might find it nearly impossible to stop binge drinking. In these cases, there is no shame in reaching out for help. Whether help comes in the form of a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous, therapy, or spending time in a rehab center, it is essential to not delay treatment for this lasting disease. The difficulties of overcoming the binge drinking habit in the short-term will mean lasting positive results.