Binge drinking has become a growing problem in the United States, with at least 25% of high school pupils and people aged between 18 to 34 years drinking to excess over a short period, according to a new study issued by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The CDC classifies binge drinking as consuming at least five alcoholic drinks for men and four for women over a short period, for example a couple of hours.
The CDC reports that 21% of males and 10% of females are likely to binge drink. 16% of non-Hispanic Caucasians are likely to binge drink, compared to 10% of non-Hispanic African-Americans.
Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., CDC Director, said:
Binge drinking, increases many health risks, including fatal car crashes, contracting a sexually transmitted disease, dating violence, and drug overdoses. Excessive alcohol use remains the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States and leads to a wide range of health and social problems.
In this study, investigators examined self reports of binge drinking during the previous 30 days by 412,000 American adults, aged 18+ years. They also analyzed data from the 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), as well as the 2009 National Youth risk Behavior Survey involving about 16,000 high school pupils.
Co-author, Dr. Robert Brewer, M.D., M.P.H., alcohol program leader at the CDC, said:
Alarmingly, almost 1 in 3 adults and 2 in 3 high school students who drink alcohol also binge drink, which usually leads to intoxication. Although most binge drinkers are not alcohol-dependent or alcoholics, they often engage in this high risk behavior without realizing the health and social problems of their drinking. States and communities need to consider further strategies to create an environment that discourages binge drinking.
79,000 of deaths each year in the USA are caused by excessive drinking. Apart from the health risks directly caused by consuming too much alcohol, binge drinking increases the risk of automobile accidents, STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), falls, fights, and unexpected pregnancies.
The medium and long-term health consequences of excessive drinking include:
- depression and other mental problems
- fetal alcohol spectrum disorders - birth defects if the mother drank during pregnancy
- heart disease
- liver disease
- several cancers