One in Six U.S. Adults Binge Drinks Regularly: Study

One in Six U.S. Adults Binge Drinks Regularly: Study

One in six U.S. adults binge drinks regularly – about once a week – says a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Binge drinking - defined as five or more drinks in two hours for men and four or more drinks in two hours for women - is far more common among men than women, the study says, and is more common among young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 than any other age group.

The practice of binge drinking once a week is far more dangerous than most people realize, especially the drinkers themselves who usually think that drinking once a week or so is safer than drinking every day.

However, binge drinking is linked to higher risks of cancer, heart disease and liver failure, and accounts for more than half of the 88,000 deaths and over three quarters of the economic costs.

The study was carried out by the Division of Population Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

Breaking down the numbers

Excessive consumption of alcohol cost America a quarter of a trillion dollars in 2016, which figures out to approximately $2.05 per drink. These costs impact everyone – 2 of every 5 dollars are paid by the governments, so we're all paying for the excessive use of alcohol out of our hard-earned taxes.

Here's the binge drinking breakdown for 2015, the latest year available:

The cost of binge drinking infographic

A total of 17.1 percent of U.S. adults - 37.4 million people - averaged 53.1 binge-drinking episodes a year - a little over once a week. They averaged 7 drinks per binge episode, called the "intensity" of the binge, resulting in 17.5 billion drinks, or 467 binge drinks per drinker.

While young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 were the single largest demographic of binge drinkers, half of all binge drinkers were 35 years old or above.

Finally, total drinks per binge drinker were,

"substantially higher among those with lower educational levels and household incomes than among those with higher educational levels and household incomes."

Binge drinking impacts "many aspects of the drinker's life and the lives of those around them," the CDC says. These include:

  • Losses in workplace productivity - 72 percent
  • Health care expenses for treating problems caused by excessive drinking - 11 percent
  • Law enforcement and other criminal justice expenses - 10 percent
  • Losses from motor vehicle crashes related to excessive alcohol use - 5 percent.

Prevention is critical

The CDC has said for years that effective community-based interventions could significantly reduce excessive drinking and its costs. The latest study says prevention efforts are critically needed now, and should focus on how often people binge drink and how much alcohol they consume when they do.

But what are "effective" interventions? There have been numerous ideas and programs aimed at reducing excessive alcohol use, but they're not widely implemented. And previous studies have found that nine in ten adults who binge drink are not alcohol dependent, which rules out the usual treatments for alcoholism, the study says.

"Strategies to address excessive drinking must also include, in addition to clinically based strategies (e.g., screening and brief interventions), evidence-based policies, such as those recommended by The Community Preventive Services Task Force. These include increasing alcohol taxes, regulating alcohol outlet density, and commercial host liability." the report says.

No easy answer yet

"Recent reports have shown that these interventions may be underutilized by states relative to their potential effectiveness. In fact, the total federal and state taxes on alcoholic beverages were about $0.14 per drink (in 2011), whereas the economic cost of excessive drinking was about $2.05 per drink (in 2010), and binge drinking is responsible for about three quarters of these costs," the study says.

Finding and executing "effective" interventions will require more specialized research to provide,

"a more sensitive and specific way to plan, implement, and evaluate community and clinical preventive strategies for reducing binge drinking and related harms."

Here at Novus Medical Detox Centers, we contribute to generalized solutions by passing along our knowledge and experience to the public at every opportunity. At the individual level we continue to provide the most effective and most comfortable detoxification programs available.

If you or someone you care for is in any kind of difficulty because of alcohol or any other substance use disorder, don't hesitate to call Novus. We're always here to help.

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