Binge Drinking: Costly and Dangerous Consequences

  • Published
  • By Earl Rivers
  • 1st Special Operations Medical Operations Squadron ADAPT Program
Binge drinking accounts for an average of 40,000 deaths and $191 billion in economic costs to our Nation each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person's blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 percent or higher. This typically happens when men consume five or more drinks and women consume four or more drinks in approximately two hours. A standard drink contains about half an ounce of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in 12 ounces of regular beer, eight ounces of malt liquor, five ounces of wine or one and a half ounces of 80-proof liquor.

Alarmingly, one in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month -- consuming about eight drinks per binge. While binge drinking is most common among 18 to 34 years old, 70 percent of binge drinking episodes involve adults 26 years old and older.

Also, binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving versus non-binge drinkers. Binge drinking accounts for more than 50 percent of the alcohol consumed by adults and 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by youth in the U.S.

Additionally, excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions. These immediate effects are most often the result of binge drinking and include:

 Unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes, falls, drowning, burns and firearm injuries.

 Violence, including intimate partner violence and child maltreatment. Approximately 35 percent of victims report that offenders are under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol use is also associated with two out of three incidents of intimate partner violence.

 Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, and increased risk of sexual assault. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.

 Alcohol poisoning: A medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels that suppress the central nervous system and can cause loss of consciousness, low blood pressure, low body temperature, coma, respiratory depression or death.

To eliminate binge drinking and promote responsible use of alcohol, the NIAAA recommends low-risk drinking. Low-risk drinking is men consuming no more than four drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week; and women consuming no more than three drinks on any single day and no more than seven drinks per week.

If Airmen are considering changing their drinking habits, they will need to decide whether to cut down or to quit. It's a good idea to discuss different options with a doctor, a friend or someone else they trust.

Quitting is strongly advised if Airmen:
 Try cutting down but cannot stay within the limits their set.

 Have had an alcohol use disorder or now have symptoms.

 Have a physical or mental condition that is caused or worsened by drinking.

 Are taking a prescription or over-the-counter medication that interacts with alcohol.

 Are or may become pregnant.

If Airmen do not have any of the above-listed conditions, talk with their doctor to determine whether they should cut down or quit based on factors such as:

 Family history of alcohol problems.

 Whether they had drinking-related injuries.

 Symptoms of sleep disorders or sexual dysfunction.

For more information, contact the Hurlburt Field Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment (ADAPT) Program at (850) 881-4237. The ADAPT Program provides a wide range of prevention, evaluation and treatment services to active duty members. The ADAPT Program is located directly behind the Hurlburt Youth Center at 130 LeTourneau Circle, building 90311.

Family members of active duty personnel should contact TriCare-partner Value Options at (800) 700-8646 for information and assistance in obtaining substance use evaluation and treatment services.