The Effects of Binge Drinking

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Updated: May 16, 2022
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Binge drinking is not a new phenomenon and continues to be a significant public health concern. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This primarily takes place when drinks of 5 or more are consumed within 2 hours. Alcohol use varies globally, however, the excessive use of alcohol has been a growing issue throughout the years.

According the the World Health Organization, alcohol consumption is responsible for 1 in 20 deaths globally each year, killing up to 3 million people annually, thus, increasing the global burden of disease (WHO, 2018).

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Specifically, in the United States, alcohol consumption has remained high. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking is the most prevalent, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States (CDC, 2018). The rate at which people consume alcoholic beverages to the point of binge drinking is troublesome. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that one in six US adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming roughly seven drinks per binge; resulting in 17 billion total binge drinks consumed by adults annually in the United States (CDC, ). What makes the matter worse, is the fact that alcohol is so widely used, that it makes it socially acceptable within our society. This allows for increased consumption of alcoholic beverages and ultimately leading to binge drinking. Consequently, alcohol use is not limited to one specific age group, and therefore, can affect anyone in the population. Perhaps, what is most troubling is the age group that is highly affected by the socially accepted consumption of alcohol in the United States. Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States (CDC). According to a national survey taken by the National Institute of Health (NIH), almost sixty percent of Americans aged eighteen to twenty-two, drank alcohol in the past month, and roughly two out of three engaged in binge drinking during that timeframe (NIH, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2015). The environment that students are surrounded by in colleges and universities, portrays drinking as a “normal part of the college experience.” Therefore, result in students engaging in unhealthy drinking activities. The prevalence of binge drinking is roughly five million people, ages twelve to twenty, which amounts to thirteen point four percent of the total being males and thirteen point three percent being females (NIAAA, 2018).

Young adults in the college age range tend to be most vulnerable to the effects of peer pressure, leading individuals to substance and alcohol abuse. In fact, the availability of alcohol at sporting events, fraternity parties, local bars, and other social activities all offer temptation to students to drink more than they usually would. Drinking weekend after weekend may build up a tolerance to some individuals, which might require some people to drink more in order to feel the same effects of the alcohol. In addition, the harmful mentality of partying and drinking alcohol as the “college experience,” and the desire to want to fit in and make new friends, put individuals at higher risk for alcohol abuse. With that being said, the age range of eighteen to twenty-two, can be considered a high risk group, especially in the category of alcohol and binge drinking. There are many significant causes associated with binge drinking (e.g. individual, relationship, community, and societal levels). All of the causes play an important role for individuals in the age range of eighteen to twenty-two. For instance, at the individual level, factors that contribute to higher risk of binge drinking include previous drinking history, age of first drink, psychological issues, substance abuse history and etc. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the first six weeks of freshman year are a vulnerable time for heavy drinking and alcohol-related consequences because of student expectations (NIAAA, 2018). At the relationship level, contributing factors include but are not limited to family up-bringing and peers. The type of persons an individual surround themselves with can negatively influence their life style and behavior, and in this case, the amount of alcohol consumed during social events. In addition, the type of family one is brought up in can severely impact the type of choices they make in their lives and can help them understand their perception of right and wrong.

Having strong family relationships can significantly strengthen their values and morals, which can positively help someone in a social situation of peer pressure. For example, children who were warned about the dangers of alcohol by their parents and children who reported being closer to their parents were less likely to start drinking (NIAAA, 2000). As for the community-level, the environment an individual is surrounded by can greatly affect the outcome of one’s drinking habits. For example, although majority of students come into college already expecting some type of experience with alcohol, factors such as, the widespread of availability of alcohol and an inconsistent enforcement of underage drinking laws, can greatly increase an individual’s risk of binge drinking (NIAAA, 2015). In addition, colleges with strong Greek systems and prominent athletic programs, tend to influence individuals to drink more compared to students at other types of schools (NIAAA, 2015). Lastly, in the societal level, the effects of alcohol use being socially acceptable in society can contribute to an individual’s risk of binge drinking, especially in college. Also, the amount of advertising in the media suggest drinking is “cool” and can give the perception that their drinking behavior is not frowned upon in society; thus, influencing adolescents to be more approvingly predisposed to drinking (NIAAA, 2000). However, after considering all the contributing factors of increased risk for binge drinking among college-aged individuals, it seems that the environment in which people are in can largely affect the outcome of one’s behavior for binge drinking. The issue of binge drinking and alcohol use in the United States pose consequences on not just an individual’s health but multiple other consequences, such as the economic burden. Excessive alcohol consumption is not cheap and is draining the United States economy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking cost the United States two-hundred forty-nine billion in 2010; those costs resulted from losses in workplace productivity, health care expenditure, criminal justice costs, and other expenses (CDC, 2018). Not to mention, the economic toll that each state in the US endures, which amounts to roughly three billion each on average (CDC, 2018). The excessive use of alcohol varies by state, however, the consumption of alcohol overall is substantially high, and largely unrecognized. This is because the economic burden due to excessive alcohol use is not seen immediately, especially when comparing it to the effects on individuals’ health, such as morbidity and mortality that is usually seen immediately after binge drinking. In addition, there are other significant costs that need to be considered, such as educational and awareness programs and evaluations that address the root cause of an individual’s drinking behavior. While some people may consider the programs to be effective, it however, does not come cheap. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol contributed to more than two-hundred diseases and injury-related health conditions, such as liver cirrhosis, cancers, and injuries (WHO, 2018). Morbidity and Mortality from excessive alcohol consumption vary by each age group, however, it is known to be increasingly high within Americans aged eighteen to twenty-four. This age group of young adults are more prone to engaging in risky behavior (e.g. risky sex, drugs, drinking and driving), which ultimately increase their risk for morbidity, mortality, and disability. However, once alcohol is thrown into the equation, the risk and consequences become higher. Pairing alcohol with an adolescent already prone to risky behavior, significantly increases their chance of engaging in risky behavior while under the influence.

For example, risky sex during intoxication can lead to unintended transmitted diseases such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. Not to mention increased risk for sexual assault. Roughly ninety-seven thousand students between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape (NIAAA, 2015). In addition, excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that may increase your risk of other negative health conditions. Unfortunately, young people are often not aware of the dangers and health risks associated with binge drinking. Health risk from excessive alcohol consumption can include things like increased morbidity (e.g. sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, liver cancer), unintentional injuries, alcohol poisoning, violence (e.g. homicide, suicide), and mortality related accidents (e.g. vehicle crashes, falls, drowning’s). Researchers have concluded that each year, roughly one thousand eight-hundred twenty-five college students between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four, die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, with most of them being from traffic-related injuries (NIAAA, 2015). Other consequences that can affect an individual from excessive alcohol consumption include poor academic performance, criminal activities, alcohol dependency, and unwanted pregnancies. It is no surprise that the morning after a night out from drinking, can result in what is called a hangover – the experience of unpleasant physiological and psychological effects following the consumption of alcohol. Feeling “hung over” can result in poor academic performance, especially if there is a test or assignment due. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), about one in four college students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades (NIAAA, 2018).

On the other hand, binge drinking can result in an individual committing a crime. When someone is under the influence of alcohol, their actions and judgment may be entirely different from how they normally would behave and perceive things when sober. Crimes such as vandalism, property damage, driving under the influence, assault, and rape can result from binge drinking. According to NIAAA, six-hundred ninety-six thousand students between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four, are assaulted by another student who has been drinking (NIAAA, 2018). Binge drinking is not a new phenomenon and continues to be a significant public health concern, which is why it is important to improve our understanding of the issue at hand. The harmful effects of binge drinking within college aged students, emphasizes the need for improvement of practical solutions to the issue. Binge drinking in college poses many consequences and places a burden of health on students engaging in the behavior. With the right intervention methods and tools, the burden from excessive alcohol consumption in young adults can be significantly reduced over time.

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The effects of binge drinking. (2019, Oct 24). Retrieved from