Binge drinking in the United States might be more common than you think. The drinking culture that permeates the country is no secret. Still, the majority of drinkers throughout the country contain their drinking to only one or two when they decide to drink. But the rates of binge drinking seen in American adults are alarming, to say the least.
Adults in the United States consume more than 17 billion binge drinks every year, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. One out of six Americans (roughly 37.4 million people) binge drinks at least once per week. These drinkers consume about seven drinks each time they binge drink or approximately 470 drinks per year.
What exactly is binge drinking and what is the impact of binge drinking in the United States? Are people who binge drink alcoholics? If you know someone who drinks heavily and you’re concerned about their drinking, continue reading to learn more about the role of binge drinking in the U.S.
Understanding Binge Drinking in the United States
Binge drinking is almost glorified in U.S. culture. Dozens of incredibly popular movies, such as The Hangover and Superbad place binge drinking front and center. Television shows include plenty of jokes about the amount of alcohol people regularly consume. Sporting events seem to be almost as much about the drinking as they are about watching the game.
You might have fun drinking a bit more than normal from time to time but binge drinking can lead to some disastrous consequences. The possible results of a heavy night of drinking, especially multiple nights over time, are more than likely not worth it. What exactly counts as binge drinking and how do you know when you crossed the line?
Definitions of Different Drinking Levels
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the standard, acceptable level of drinking is no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. One standard drink includes:
- 12 fluid ounces of beer (about 5% alcohol)
- 8-9 fluid ounces of malt liquor (about 7% alcohol)
- 5 fluid ounces of wine (about 12% alcohol)
- 1.5 fluid ounces of hard liquor (about 40% alcohol)
Then the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism goes further and outlines the various patterns of dangerous drinking. They split these drinking levels into the following four categories:
Binge drinking is defined as drinking behavior that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08, the legal limit. It usually takes four drinks for women or five drinks for men consumed over the course of two hours to reach this level. You might realize how easy it is for a night of drinking to qualify as a binge-drinking episode. Binge drinking in the United States is incredibly common: 26.9 people reported at least one episode in the past month.
Heavy Alcohol Use
A person’s drinking qualifies as heavy alcohol use when they have five or more episodes of binge drinking within one month. Although not as high as levels of binge drinking in the United States, 7 percent of people reported patterns of heavy alcohol use in the last month.
Low Risk for Developing Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
Low-risk drinking for women is no more than 3 drinks per day or 7 drinks per week. Men who have no more than 4 drinks per day or 14 drinks per week also remain within low-risk drinking levels. Only 2 out of 100 people who drink this amount develop an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
Alcohol use disorder is the official medical diagnosis for someone who has a severe drinking problem, usually referred to as alcoholism outside the medical community. There are 11 criteria for alcohol use disorder outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The number of symptoms a person shows determines the severity of their AUD.
Binge Drinking on College Campuses
Students enjoying the first feelings of freedom when living alone tend to experiment with alcohol and other drugs. This makes binge drinking in the United States is especially prevalent on college campuses. 37.9 percent of college students reported having at least one binge-drinking episode in the last month. Furthermore, 12.5 percent of students reported heavy alcohol use.
Impact of Binge Drinking in the United States
What is all of this binge drinking in the United States doing to the population? For starters, approximately 88,000 people die of alcohol-related causes each year. With more than 240 people dying from an incident involving alcohol every day it is the third leading preventable cause of death in the country.
Binge drinking also creates an incredible economic burden with alcohol misuse costing the country roughly $249 billion in 2010. Of that total, three-quarters of it are due to binge drinking in the United States. It also contributes to more than 200 different diseases and health conditions due to injury, such as cancer and liver cirrhosis.
How can people find help for their binge drinking problem? Addiction and alcoholism treatment exists to provide people struggling to quit drinking a place to get sober. Specialized programs and levels of care, from detox to intensive outpatient programs, are tailored for recovering drinkers.
Hawaii Island Recovery is one of these types of facilities, located on the Big Island of Hawaii. Do you know someone looking to get clean and sober? Give us our admissions office a call at 877-721-3556 for an overview of the programs offered at our individualized, 8-bed facility. Don’t wait— call today!