Binge drinking has been linked to many serious health problems, from unintended pregnancies to liver disease to accidental injuries, including more than 40,000 average annual deaths in the U.S, and facts show that the rate of drinking problems in every state is higher than illicit drug or marijuana use. According to a survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly one in four Americans admits to binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks on one occasion, within the past month.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the U.S. is binge drinking, defined as drinking enough to cause the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to reach a level of 0.08 grams percent or above. This is typically five or more drinks for men, four or more drinks for women, in a period of about two hours.
The CDC reports that drinking too much cost the U.S. $223.5 billion in 2006, about $1.90 a drink, based on health care, crime, losses in productivity and other related expenses. Federal and state income from taxes on alcohol are about 12 cents per drink, but costs to federal, state and local governments were about 62 cents per drink in 2006.
According to the most recent statistics from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) there were nearly 2.5 million emergency department visits in 2011 due to drug misuse or abuse. About half of the drugs involved were pharmaceuticals, the other half illicit drugs. 29 percent of those visits involved a mixture of drugs and alcohol.
According to the CDC, 38 million Americans binge drink. SAMHSA reports that in 2012, 7.6 million people in the U.S. used marijuana at least 20 days in the past month. That year 8.9 million people were current users of illicit drugs (including marijuana), demonstrating the higher frequency of alcohol to drug use.
Some states have significantly higher rates than others. For example excessive alcohol use in North Dakota, rated the number one state on the binge drinking scale, occurred approximately once every 15 seconds, about twice as often as in Wyoming, where it happens only once every 30 seconds. One in three North Dakotans reported binge drinking in the past month. Binge drinking is most common in the Midwest, Washington D.C., New England, Hawaii and Alaska.
The video below shows a real-time estimate of how often people binge drink and use drugs across America. It includes information on how often a person is taken to an emergency room for reasons related to drug and/or alcohol. According to DAWN, this occurs approximately once every 12 seconds. The video was developed by the creative team at Rehabs, an organization that specializes in matching people with rehabilitation facilities.
The CDC encourages knowing the facts on binge drinking, keeping alcohol consumption in moderation and recommends no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. SAMHSA spokesperson Pamela S. Hyde said “Binge drinking by adults has a huge public health impact, and influences the drinking behavior of underage youth by the example it sets.”
By Beth A. Balen