Don't Drink, Drink, Drink!

Authors warn of high rates and dangers of binge drinking

(RxWiki News) A recent editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal states that binge drinking is an excessively common practice in the United States.

According to Drs. Ken Flegel, Noni MacDonald, and Paul Hébert, a stronger effort must be made to control binge drinking and the general overconsumption of alcohol.

As defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is the consumption of alcohol that brings an individual's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to at least 0.08 grams percent. Binge drinking accounts for approximately 75 percent of the alcohol consumed by adults in the United States. Approximately 90 percent of alcohol consumed by underage youth in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.

With such high rates of binge drinking, the editorial's authors are concerned about the health risks associated with the practice; risks including vehicle-related accidents, alcohol poisoning, STDs, unintended pregnancy, children born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, poor control of diabetes, and sexual dysfunction among other health problems.

According to a 2006 study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, underage drinking led to 3,170 deaths in 2001 and 2.6 million other hazardous occurrences such as traffic crashes, property crime, violence, suicide, high-risk sex, and other events. The cost of such events amounted to $61.9 billion. A breakdown of this cost included $5.4 billion in medical costs, $14.9 billion in loss of work and other resources, and $41.6 billion in diminished quality of life.

The strategies currently recommended by the CDC to prevent binge drinking include: increasing the cost and taxes of alcoholic beverages, limiting the number of liquor stores, consistently enforcing laws that prevent underage drinking and drunk driving, and counseling for the abuse and misuse of alcohol.

Such strategies do not appear to be working as well as they intended. The authors of the Canadian Medical Association Journal  editorial believe that public health agencies, municipalities, the hospitality industry, liquor manufacturers, and liquor control boards should collaborate to focus on more effective methods to limit the prevalence of binge drinking.

Review Date: 
January 18, 2011