Binge Drinking: An Increasingly Dangerous Problem

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Binge drinking accounts for more than 40,000 deaths each year in the United States.  A 2010 study conducted by the CDC assessed the prevalence of binge drinkers in 48 states and the District of Columbia. The study defined binge drinking as an episode involving 4 or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men and the study period was based on 30 days.  The overall prevalence of binge drinking was 17.1% with a frequency of 4.4 episodes per month and 7.9 drinks per episode. Young adults between 18 and 24 had the highest prevalence rate at 28.2% and adults 65+ had the highest number of episodes per month at 5.5.

But don’t think that this problem is restricted to people from low to middle incomes. The highest prevalence rate of 20.2% occurred in households reporting incomes greater than $75,000. Binge drinking appears to involve 1 of 6 Americans (38 million) with an economic impact of $223.5 billion per year.

We are not just talking about alcohol consumption here, but the related health and social problems which include: motor vehicle accidents; violence; suicide; hypertension; increased risk for heart attack; greater exposure risks to sexually transmitted disease; unintended pregnancy; fetal alcohol syndrome and other problems. In 2010, 85% of all alcohol impaired driving episodes were reported by persons who also reported binge drinking.  Most binge drinkers don’t fit the definition of alcohol dependent, but consumed 50% of the alcohol used by adults and 90% of the alcohol used by people under the age of 18.

Oklahoma and its neighboring states fall into a group of states with the most drinks consumed in an episode at 7.8 to 9.0 drinks per occasion. That’s a lot of alcohol for a person to consume and likely related to the high health and social costs that we see in Oklahoma and our surrounding neighbors.  Doesn’t it make you think about what causes binge drinking? Are there mental health issues that cause people to seek relief in alcohol? Are we providing adequate resources to prevent these problems? And, are we educating people about the risks and consequences?

People who are engaging in binge drinking are at risk for having unresolved mental health problems. Their alcohol use pattern may allow them to “fly below the radar” until their drinking causes a problem which involves their health or that of another individual. We need to consider what causes a person to binge drink and help them access the resources they need. Clearly, there is help available in treatment programs and in our community. But, to make help work people need to recognize that their drinking is at a problem level and that they need help. (Click here to learn about Brookhaven’s programs and how they can help)

Reference: Vital Signs: Binge Drinking Prevalence, Frequency, and Intensity Among Adults-United States, 2010, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, January 10, 2012, Early Release Edition/ Vol.61

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