Binge Drinking

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Binge Drinking


Binge drinking is a pattern of consumption characterized by heavy drinking during a single occasion, leading to intoxication. This pattern of drinking, consisting of at least five drinks per drinking episode for men and four drinks for women, raises concern because of its high correlation with accidents and injuries, such as those incurred when driving while intoxicated. In older adults, binge drinking has significant health implications, such as heart disease. Rates of binge drinking vary by age. It is the most common pattern of alcohol consumption among adolescents, with increasing prevalence through young adulthood, peaking at age 21, and declining through adulthood. For most youth, engaging in binge drinking does not predict the development of alcohol dependence. This pattern changes for older adults, as binge drinking is correlated with patterns of heavy drinking (Mokdad, 1-124).


During adolescence and young adulthood, the majority (90%) of alcohol consumption is in the form of binge drinking. Recently, 11% of 8th graders, 30% of 12th graders, and 40% of college students reported binge drinking within the past 2 weeks to 1 month. These rates have been consistent for the past few decades. However, historically prevalent gender differences are no longer evident across adolescents and young adults. In terms of culture, Native Americans have the highest rates of binge drinking, followed by Caucasian, Hispanic/Latino, biracial/ multiracial, Asian American, and African American students.

Clinical Course

The majority of adolescents and young adults who engage in binge drinking do not face alcohol dependence during adulthood. In addition, most people who engage in binge drinking naturally reduce this behavior without formal intervention. However, adolescents and young adults who continue binge drinking into adulthood face a greater likelihood of developing alcohol dependence. Brief interventions, including motivational interviewing and harm reduction approaches, have been found to effectively catalyze reductions in binge drinking and related consequences across people of all age groups. Moreover, reductions in binge drinking achieved during adolescence and young adulthood have been found to have preventive effects during adulthood.

Risk Factors

Adolescents who use other substances, such as tobacco and marijuana, have evidenced higher rates of binge drinking. Fourth, adolescents who believe that their friends are regular drinkers, frequent drinkers, or binge drinkers are more likely to engage in binge drinking. Fifth, adolescents who exhibit delinquent behaviors, problem behaviors, and high levels of sensation seeking have been found to be more likely to engage in binge drinking. Sixth, adolescents who have parents who do not monitor their behavior have shown increased rates of binge drinking. In contrast, parents who have clearly stated that they expect their child not to drink have adolescents who demonstrate significantly lower levels of binge drinking. Seventh, adolescents who are doing poorly in school, have a negative attitude, or a limited commitment toward school have increased rates of binge drinking.


During adulthood, there are several risk factors for increased levels of binge drinking, including age of initiation of binge drinking, gender, cultural patterns of alcohol consumption, and heavy drinking. First, adults who began binge drinking before or during high school ...
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