Adult Binge Drinking on the Rise

Bingeing Jumped 25% Among Adults 26 and Older

Dec. 31, 2002 -- In spite of all the public campaigns against it, binge drinking among adults -- even those 26 years and over -- is on the upswing from a reported decline during the early '90s.

Binge drinking among young adults is well known. And this study shows that underage drinkers scored a whopping 56% increase in the number of binge-drinking episodes.

But surprisingly, the researchers also found that from 1993 to 2001, the number of binge drinking episodes -- consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting -- among adults aged 26 to 55 jumped 25%.

Alcohol abuse is the third largest preventable cause of death in the U.S. and is responsible for killing more than 100,000 Americans annually -- largely due to driving accidents.

One of several challenges in getting people to recognize the harmful consequences is that alcohol intoxication is often considered either humorous or a rite of passage, according to study researcher, Timothy S. Naimi, MD and colleagues. If people were less tolerant of the harm binge drinkers cause, the chances of successfully combating its harmful effect would likely improve.

The study is published in the January 2003 issue of The Journal of American Medical Association.

Other findings from the study include:

  • Between 1995 and 2001, the number of binge-drinking episodes per person per year increased by 35%.
  • Men accounted for 81% of binge drinking episodes and were approximately three times more likely than women to report it.
  • Binge drinkers were less likely to have a college education.
  • Most -- close to 73% -- of binge drinkers were considered to be moderate drinkers -- regularly having less than one to two drinks a day.
  • Hispanics had the highest rate of binge drinking episodes -- including over 45% of Hispanic men.
  • Blacks had the lowest rate of binge drinking with less than five episodes per capita.

The researchers suggest that to prevent the destructive behaviors associated with alcohol, more effective ways to find potential alcohol abusers are needed -- such as screening patients in doctors' offices for alcohol abuse.

SOURCE: The Journal of American Medical Association, Jan.1, 2003.