Binge drinking is classified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a serious, but preventable, public health problem. The CDC defines binge drinking as a pattern involving drinking of alcohol in a manner that brings a person’s blood alcohol content, of BAC, to over 0.08 grams or above within a two hour time period. This usually means a man will consume about five alcoholic beverages during that time period, while a woman will drink four such beverages.
The Prevalence of Binge Drinking in the United States
Individuals who work in the hospitality and healthcare industries confront binge drinkers regularly through the course of their professional work. About one in six individuals in the U.S.A. is a regular binge drinker. These individuals binge about four times a month, consuming about eight alcoholic beverages on each occasion.
Although people of all ages binge drink, it is most common among people between the ages of 18 and 34 years. Twice as many men as women binge drink.
Binge drinking is more commonplace in households in which income is $75,000 or more. On the other hand, while fewer people in lower income categories binge drink, when they do, the consume more alcohol in one sitting.
Health Problems Associated with Binge Drinking
Binge drinking can cause a variety of health problems. A great deal of media attention each year focuses on individuals who die after binge drinking. These media reports commonly focus on college students who binge drink and die.
Beyond the possibility that a person can die after binge drinking, there is a number of other types of health conditions associated with binge drinking, according to the CDC. This includes an array of chronic health problems and diseases that can be traced to binge drinking. These include:
- high blood pressure
- liver disease
- heart disease
Binge drinking has also been identified as the underlying cause for certain types of cancer among people in the United States, and elsewhere around the world. These types of cancer include:
Reference has been made to people who die after binge drinking. This happens in come instances because of alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning represents another of the health problems associated with binge drinking.
Binge drinking can also cause memory issues with individuals. This happens when a person engages in binge drinking over time. The memory issues typically are irreversible. In a related vein, binge drinking can also impair a person’s ability to learn.
Although many individuals who binge drink do not have a dependency to alcohol, over time such a condition can develop. As dependency develops, binge drinking typically becomes more frequent, and oftentimes involves the consumption of larger amounts of alcohol.
In the aftermath of binge drinking, some individuals engage in unsafe sex practices. This opens the door to other health issues involving sexually transmitted diseases.
Accidents and Violence Associated with Binge Drinking
Beyond health issues, binge drinking is also associated with different types of accidents and acts of violence. Car accidents, falls, and burns are the trio of most common types of accidents associated with binge drinking.
People who binge drink also engage in acts of violence, including fights and sexual assault. In addition, if a person were inclined to suicidal ideations, such an individual may be more apt to make an attempt on his or her own life after binge drinking.
The Economic Impact of Binge Drinking
Bing drinking has significant economic and financial consequences. Over imbibing generally has significant financial consequences in the United States. Drinking in excess, including binge drinking, costs nearly $250 billion in the United States, according to the CDC. This equates to $2.05 for every alcoholic beverage consumed in the country. These costs are associated with a loss in workplace productivity, health care costs, criminal justice costs, and other expenses. Binge drinking is considered responsibility for the vast majority of these economic losses. 77 percent of these costs are attributed to binge drinking, or about $190 billion annually.
Public Policy to Reduce Binge Drinking
A number of policies are being debated, and implemented, across the United States to address the problem of binge drinking. Because a significant percentage of binge drinking occurs in bars, nightclubs, and restaurants, there is a move to hold establishments that serve alcohol responsible for harm caused by intoxicated patrons. Historically, these types of statutes were called dram shop laws.
Jessica Kane writes for TIPS Alcohol Training, offering TIPS responsible alcohol service training online for both on and off premise needs.