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Binge Drinking FAQs

Research shows that fewer drinks in the same timeframe result in the same BAC in youth; only 3 drinks for girls, and 3 to 5 drinks for boys, depending on their age and size.

How common is binge drinking?

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 67 million, or about 25% of people in the United States ages 12 and older reported binge drinking during the past month. While binge drinking is a concern among all age groups, there are important trends in the following age groups:

  • Preteens and teens: Rates in binge drinking among young people have been steadily decreasing in the last decade. Still, in a 2019 survey, 3.8% of 8th-graders, 8.5% of 10th-graders, and 14.4% of 12th-graders reported binge drinking in the past 2 weeks.
  • Young adults: Rates among this group have been decreasing steadily in the past decade, but are still high. In a 2018 survey, 28% of college students and 25% of non-college, age-matched young adults reported binge drinking in the past 2 weeks.
  • Older adults: More than 10% of adults ages 65 and older reported binge drinking in the past month, and the prevalence is increasing. The increase in this group is of particular concern because many older adults use medications that can interact with alcohol, have health conditions that can be exacerbated by alcohol, and may be more susceptible to alcohol-related falls and other accidental injuries.
  • Women: Among U.S. women who drink, about one in four has engaged in binge drinking in the last month, averaging about three binge episodes per month and five drinks per binge episode. These trends are concerning as women are at an increased risk for health problems related to alcohol misuse.

What are the consequences and health effects of binge drinking?

While drinking any amount of alcohol can carry certain risks, crossing the binge threshold increases the risk of acute harm, such as blackouts and overdoses. Binge drinking also increases the likelihood of unsafe sexual behavior and the risk of sexually transmitted infections and unintentional pregnancy. These risks are greater at higher peak levels of consumption. Because of the impairments it produces, binge drinking also increases the likelihood of a host of potentially deadly consequences, including falls, burns, drownings, and car crashes.

Alcohol affects virtually all tissues in the body. Data suggest that even one episode of binge drinking can compromise function of the immune system and lead to acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) in individuals with underlying pancreatic damage. Excessive alcohol use, including repeated episodes of binge drinking, over time contributes to liver and other chronic diseases, as well as increases in the risk of several types of cancer, including head and neck, esophageal, liver, breast, and colorectal cancers.

Overall, of the roughly 88,000 deaths that result from alcohol use in the United States each year, more than half stem from binge drinking, and binge drinking accounts for 77% ($191.1 billion) of the annual economic cost of alcohol misuse.

How does binge drinking affect adolescents?

Brain development, once thought to taper off at the end of childhood, enters a unique phase during the adolescent years. Research indicates that repeated episodes of binge drinking during the teen years can alter the trajectory of adolescent brain development and cause lingering deficits in social, attention, memory, and other cognitive functions