According to national surveys summarized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Roughly 75% of the alcohol consumed by U.S. adults stems from binge drinking.
- About 90% of alcohol consumption among those under 21 in the U.S. comes from binge drinking.
- Though college students often binge drink, 70% of U.S. binge drinking sessions in the U.S. actually involve adults over the age of 25.
- Among U.S. adults who drink excessively 92% reported binge drinking within the past 30 days.
- U.S. binge drinkers reported alcohol-impaired driving much more than non-binge drinkers did – by a 14 to 1 ratio.
Although most binge drinkers are not addicted to alcohol, their bingeing accounts for the large majority of all alcohol consumed in the U.S.
The Health Risks of Binge Drinking
The CDC states that binge drinking is associated with serious health problems, including:
- Alcohol poisoning (life threatening)
- Liver disease
- Neurological (brain) damage
- High blood pressure
- Other cardiovascular diseases
- Poor control of diabetes
- HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases
- Unintended pregnancies
- Children born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD)
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Sexual dysfunction
- Alcohol dependence
In addition to the health risks above many injuries and deaths are caused by binge drinking accidents and violence such as:
- Car crashes
- Shootings and stabbings
- Physical assault
- Sexual assault
- Domestic violence
Reasonable people might be forgiven if they don’t want to associate themselves with binge drinking or the people who engage in it.
The Economic and Social Harms of Binge Drinking
On top of the health risks incurred by binge drinking, there are a number of serious social and economic harms caused by it as well, including:
- Work problems (such as absenteeism)
- Family problems
- Problems with the police
- Problems with friends or partners
- Medical costs of health conditions and accidents
- Lost wages
- Lost production or contribution to society
- Costs of policing and incarceration
Governments in many countries are alarmed by the high and increasing costs and harms caused by binge drinking. The CDC reported that there are some evidence-based interventions that can help prevent or reduce binge drinking, such as:
- Increasing the costs and taxes on alcoholic beverages
- Limiting the number of outlets licensed to sell alcoholic beverages in local areas
- Consistent enforcement of the laws against driving under the influence and underage drinking
- More screening for and counseling for alcohol misuse
Avoid the Risks and Dangers of Binge Drinking
Individuals can avoid most of the risks of binge drinking by not engaging in it themselves and by persuading friends and family to do the same. Dangers will still exist in the form of irresponsible or criminal behavior by others, from road accidents to physical and sexual assault. These dangers from others who binge drink can be lowered by staying out of drinking establishments and off the road during high accident times at night. Greater efforts at education in the schools and media specifically targeting binge drinking behavior might help but strict law enforcement and raising the costs of alcohol also seem to be needed.