Binge Drinking Facts
If you ask anyone to define binge drinking, they’d most likely talk about doing too many shots, chugging too much beer, or other stereotypical examples of excessive drinking. Very few would realize that their friend who has four martinis with dinner or seven or eight beers during a sports game is a binge drinker.
In general, most people are unaware of the facts surrounding binge drinking, let alone the dangers and potential short-term and long-term effects it can have.
Annually, people who binge drink consume 17 billion total binge drinks in the United States.
Researchers estimate that between national and state costs related to emergency response situations, health care costs, lost productivity, and legal fees, binge drinking accounted for losses of $191 billion yearly in the United States. It is impossible to put a dollar amount on the physical, emotional, and mental health problems that binge drinking causes people and their loved ones.
What Is Binge Drinking?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) define binge drinking as drinking enough alcohol in one sitting to raise a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to .08% or higher. Binge drinking is defined for the typical adult five or more drinks in two hours for men and four or more for women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report binge drinking is the most common and expensive type of excessive drinking and the leading cause of alcohol-related injuries and death.
Is Binge Drinking Alcoholism?
Binge drinking is not alcoholism, but it is still a problematic and dangerous behavior that can lead to a chronic disease called alcohol use disorder, commonly called alcoholism. The primary difference between binge drinkers and alcoholics is physical dependency and their pattern of behaviors.
Binge drinkers may have five or more drinks in one night and not drink again for weeks with no severe side effects or immediate consequences. In terms of frequency, they can control their drinking, but when they decide to drink, they struggle to control the amount of time spent drinking and how much they consume. Binge drinking is a problematic kind of recreational substance abuse, people who regularly binge drink have an increased risk of developing alcohol dependence and addiction.
People with alcohol use disorder are physically dependent on alcohol and will experience withdrawal symptoms if they abruptly quit drinking, including alcohol withdrawal seizures, which can be fatal. Alcoholics are not always drinking heavily but have to drink alcohol daily to avoid becoming ill, though some also have binge drinking behavior patterns.
What Is a Binge Drinker?
A binge drinker is any person who, in a single period, drinks enough alcohol to raise their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to .08% or higher. People who binge drink come from all age groups, genders, races, and backgrounds. There are 17 billion annual binge drinks consumed by US adults or 467 drinks per binge-drinking adult.
Below are some more facts about binge drinking and the people who binge drink:
- 1 in 6 adults in the United States is a binge drinker, and 25% admit they engaged in binge drinking weekly
- 90% of heavy drinkers admit to binge drinking
- 1 in 4 binge drinkers has a minimum of eight drinks each binge
- 24% of the US population admits to binge drinking regularly
- 90% of people who drink under the age of 21, including high school students, are binge drinkers
- 18 to 34-year-olds are most likely to be binge drinkers
- Older adults binge drink more frequently than younger drinkers
- Binge drinking is directly responsible for approximately 47,000 deaths in the United States every year
Effects of Binge Drinking
The effects of binge drinking are more dangerous than many realize because it affects the body and immediate behaviors and decision-making. It increases the risk of unsafe sexual behavior and other destructive activities that put the person who engaged in binge drinking and the people around them at risk.
Risks and effects of binge drinking include:
- Accidental injuries and death, including falls, burns, vehicle crashes, drowning, and alcohol poisoning
- Increased risk of being a victim of violence and sexual assault
- Using drugs
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Unplanned pregnancy
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
- Legal trouble
Most of the short-term health effects of binge drinking dissipate as alcohol leaves the body; however, repeated binge drinking does have long-term physical and mental health effects, just like any other type of alcohol use disorder.
Long-Term Consequences of Binge Drinking
Eventually, people will experience the long-term consequences of binge drinking, including tolerance and developing an alcohol use disorder.
Long-term effects of binge drinking include:
- Weakened immune system
- Memory loss
- Cognitive decline
- Incurable sexually transmitted diseases
- Sexual dysfunction
- Fertility issues
- Liver disease
- Heart damage
- Brain damage
- Kidney damage
- High blood pressure
- Mood disorders
- Increased risk of stroke and heart attack
- Post-acute withdrawal syndrome
Like other substance use disorders, binge drinking combines genetic, psychological, physical, behavioral, and environmental factors to cause an escalating pattern of dependence and addiction. Because there are more than just physical components to binge drinking, overcoming it requires an evidence-based treatment approach that addresses all the aspects.
Social settings significantly influence binge drinking behavior; one of the many benefits of residential treatment is a fresh start in a place removed from triggers and pressure to drink.
Evidence-Based Alcohol Abuse Treatment
No one has to wait until they have lost control of their drinking to seek help. Support and a different way of life are available if you or a loved one’s binge drinking behavior has become worrisome.
We pride ourselves at White Oak Recovery Center on our whole-person, evidence-based treatment approach that helps you address and overcome all aspects of alcohol abuse and addiction. During your stay in our peaceful and private residential treatment center, you’ll learn healthy habits and communication skills that reframe how you face situations challenging your recovery.
Reach out to our treatment specialists now. We are eager to help you start a life rooted in recovery.
- “What is Binge Drinking?” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Dec. 2021.
- Koehler, Steven. “Basic Facts on Binge Drinking.” West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Jun. 2022.
- “How Much is Too Much? 5 Things You Need to Know About Binge Drinking.” National Institutes of Health, Aug. 2019.
- “Binge Drinking.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nov. 2022.
- Molina, Patricia E, and Steve Nelson. “Binge Drinking’s Effects on the Body.” Alcohol Research: Current Reviews vol. 39, Jan. 2018.
- “College Students and the Dangers of Binge Drinking.” University of Rochester Medical Center, Jan. 2022.