Healthy Living: Binge Drinking IS a Big Deal 

By- Dr. Anthony Ng“It is no big deal.” This is often a statement that one may hear when one tells a friend or family member who drinks too much on occasions. This drinking excessively is known as Binge Drinking. Binge drinking is essentially defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more for men over a period of few hours. However, drinking in such excessive amount can be a big deal. In fact, according to a new data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), a survey of more than 450,000 adults showed adults in the United States binge drink more frequently than previously suspected and they consume more drinks when they do. The CDC data also showed that more than 38 million U.S. adults binge drink an average of four times a month and the most drinks they consume on average is eight. Binge drinking is more common among young adults ages 18–34 and of those ages 65 and older who report binge drinking, they do so more often – an average of five to six times a month. Binge drinking is more common among populations in the northern states, those with household incomes of $75,000 or more, but the largest number of drinks consumed per occasion is significantly higher among binge drinkers with household incomes of less than $25,000 – an average of eight to nine drinks, the report said. In Maine, about one in five binge drinks, as compared to one in six nationally. Mainers drink an average of eight alcoholic drinks when they binge drink. It is suspected that much of this data may be an underestimate.The occasional heavy drinking as some may characterize binge drinking is widely accepted, especially in youth population. It is part of youth passage into adulthood as some perceive it. There may also be stigma attached to binge drinking which deters someone from seeking help. There may also be concerns about legal consequences, especially when underage teens are involved. However, alcohol is still among one of the most common drug of choice to abuse. People who binge drink may not be dependent or alcoholics but binge drinking can lead to a variety of public health concerns. When individual binge drink, they often become impaired and with that impairment, bad choices are made. Such choices may include driving while intoxicated, engaging in unsafe sex, risk taking behaviors resulting in injuries or deaths. Drinking too much, including binge drinking, causes more than 80,000 deaths in the United States each year, making it the third leading preventable cause of death, and was responsible for more than $223.5 billion in economic costs in 2006. Over half of these deaths result from injuries that disproportionately involve young people. The most important intervention to binge drinking is education. Communities, and in particular vulnerable populations such as teens and college age adults, are a prime target for such education. People should be informed of the potential for binge drinking and its consequences. Such education can also help empower individuals who are what is called bystanders, parents, teachers, peers, who can help remind individuals who may binge drink. For the individual who binge drinks, they should seek help if they find that their frequency or the amount of alcohol consumes are increasing. They have increased difficulties with school or work because of their drinking. Their moods are altered significantly, with possible depression, mood irritability and anxiety. Help should also be obtained when relationships with friends, families and coworkers become strained because of their drinking. A great resource for individuals is Alcoholic Anonymous. Professional substance abuse counseling may be helpful and in some instances, medication may be helpful to stop binge drinking behavior. So in response to the person who says it is no big deal when they binge drink, you can now tell them that binge drinking IS a big deal.References:CDC Fact Sheets. Binge drinking is bigger problem than previously thought. Accessed online January 13, 2012., J. CDC: 1 in 5 Mainers binge drink. Bangor Daily News. Accessed online January 13, 2012.