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Millions of American adults are putting their health at risk by binge drinking, according to the results of a survey conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
Many of these people engage in what is known as “extreme binge drinking.”
- What is binge drinking?
Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks on one occasion for men and four or more drinks on one occasion for women.
When people drink this much, they can reach blood alcohol levels of more than 0.08 percent. This is the legal limit for driving in the U.S., and it’s known to increase the risk of harm to both the person drinking and the people around them.
For this study, researchers asked people about their alcohol use over the previous year (the survey was conducted in 2013).
- Almost 40 percent of men and 27 percent of women reported binge drinking at least once.
- More than 10 percent of men and 5 percent of women reported level 2 binge drinking—10 to 14 drinks for men and 8 to 11 drinks for women.
- About 7 percent of men and 3 percent of women reported level 3 binge drinking—15 or more drinks for men and 12 or more drinks for women.
This alcohol use was not without consequences. Binge drinkers were more likely to end up in the emergency department with an alcohol-related problem. They were at a higher risk for drinking-related injuries, legal problems and traffic crashes, too. And the more they drank, the higher these risks grew.
The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. For more information, read the press release at the National Institutes of Health website.
- Signs of an alcohol problem
Problem drinking that’s become severe is defined as alcohol use disorder.
To assess whether you or someone you know has an alcohol use disorder, ask if you or the person have done any of the following in the past year:
- Drank more or longer than intended.
- Wanted to cut down drinking or tried to, but couldn’t.
- Spent a lot of time drinking or being sick from drinking.
- Found that drinking got in the way of caring for family or working.
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with family or friends.
- Gave up or cut back on important activities in favor of drinking.
- Continued to drink even though it was causing anxiety or depression.
- Had to drink more to get the desired feeling or effect.
- Experienced withdrawal symptoms when alcohol started to wear off, like shakiness, irritability, nausea or trouble sleeping.
Any of these things could be a cause for concern, according to the NIAAA. But the more of these symptoms you have, the more urgent it is that you get help. Talk to a health professional to get a formal assessment.
For more information about the dangers of drinking, visit the Alcohol Abuse health topic center.