Binge Drinking: Statistics and Consequences


By Staff Writer

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In a surprising twist, those most prone to binge drinking actually aren’t alcoholics, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rather, binge drinkers are those who have intermittent episodes of rapid, high-volume alcohol consumption. Technically, binge drinking is defined as an episode in which enough alcohol is consumed to bring the subject’s blood alcohol content to 0.08 or higher. Depending on gender, body type, and other factors, this can be as little as 4 to 5 drinks in a two-hour span.

One demographic likely to engage in binge drinking is, obviously, college students: Nearly half of all college students report binge drinking in the last 30 days, and 30% of binge-drinkers are age 26 or under, according to the CDC. In 2005, over 1800 college students lost their life in a drinking-related death; that’s 26% higher than the 1998 rate, and a report slated for release later this year is widely expected to raise that number even higher for the 2005-2015 period.

Obviously, binge drinking carries a wide variety of consequences: nearly 30% of college students report driving under the influence, around 700,000 students each year are involved in an alcohol-related assault, and around 100,000 students each year are victims of a sexual assault or rape involving at least one intoxicated party.

The problems associated with binge drinking aren’t only of an illegal nature; there are also plenty of perfectly legal actions that still stem from impaired judgment, particularly impulsive and unprotected sex, which can lead to unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. Binge drinkers also report relational issues with their circle of friends, as they must routinely deal with the fallout from their behavior while intoxicated.

Researchers have reported a link between the age a person first consumes alcohol and their likelihood of binge drinking / alcohol dependency in their college years. Parents of high school students would do well to discuss alcohol use frankly and openly with their children to minimize that risk.

One potential topic parents could discuss with their children: the body’s vulnerability to alcohol-related damage. A recent study in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
found signs of liver disease in mice after only 21 binge-drinking sessions. The mice were subjected to binge-drinking sessions that, for their small size, simulated the amount an adult human might consume. The mouse livers developed fatty tissue, became inflamed, and their blood showed elevated levels of enzymes associated with alcoholism and liver damage.

Note that these symptoms began after just 21 episodes: a student who only parties twice a month would reach that number before the end of their freshman year at college. It’s safe to say American colleges are full of students who binge drink much more frequently than that, if the statistics at the beginning of this article are to be believed.