The definition of binge drinking, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is as follows: Drinking five or more drinks within a few hours of each other on at least one day in the past thirty days (this statistic is for males; for females, four drinks or more is considered a binge).
Such drinking, over time, creates a number of significant health problems, and studies throughout the last decade emphasize the serious nature of this problem. In a survey dating back to 2001, almost half of Americans aged 12 or older reported being drinkers of alcohol — specifically 48.3 percent. One fifth of those 109 people, aged 12 or older, had taken part in binge drinking within the thirty days before the survey. A study conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health found that binge drinking created such problems as students missing class, having unplanned or unsafe sexual activity, becoming victims of sexual assault, as well as obtaining unintentional injuries and physical ailments. In 2008, the Surgeon General estimated that about 5,000 Americans under the age of 21 die each year from alcohol-related injuries.
It may seem that binge drinking is an activity engaged in by the young, but that’s not necessarily the case. While most people who binge drink are aged between 18 and 29, older adults participate as well. In a 2007 study, 42 percent of 18-25 year olds binged at least once a month; 20 percent of 16-17 year olds did so, and 19 percent of those above the age of 35 drank in binges. Studies over the years have also shown that over 35 percent of adults who have an alcohol problem, such as binge drinking, began developing these problems by the age of 19.
Long term use of such drinking involves several health risks, including liver damage, types of cancers, pancreatitis, and, literally, brain shrinkage. The use of alcohol is attributed as the second-leading cause of dementia. The dangers of binge drinking can’t be underestimated in a society that displays marketing ads designed to encourage people to drink, especially ads that appear to be aimed at college-aged people. The problem is not limited to the United States, either. In the United Kingdom, for instance, drinking related deaths among 15 to 34 year olds increased 60 percent from 1991 to 2004. Overall deaths rose in thirteen years to 8,221. While there are occasional warning signs — such as the death of 18 students after they drank a fifth of hard liquor after the last game of the 1990 football season at the University of Virginia — it appears as if still more education needs to be made available for people to truly become aware of the problem.
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