Most Bingers Are Not Alone In Drinking

Armen Hareyan's picture
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New research strongly suggests that binge drinking often occurs in settings that dramatically increase the risk of injury to bingers and others, a disturbing finding considering that binge drinking accounts for approximately half of the 75,000 alcohol-attributable deaths in the United States every year and opens the door to a host of dangerous risk behaviors.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) epidemiologist Timothy Naimi, M.D., M.P.H., who presented his data during the Conference of State and Territorial Epidemiologists national conference this week in Denver, almost half of all binge drinking occurs in public places. Two-thirds of the time, beer is the beverage of choice among binge drinkers, and it is readily available, even to underage drinkers.

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Dr. Naimi's findings are from a CDC study that examined data from 14,150 respondents to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey Binge Drinking Module during 2003 and 2004. The results confirm that binge drinking can have serious consequences.

"Overall, 12 percent of binge drinkers reported driving during or soon after binge drinking," Dr. Naimi says, "meaning they were risking injury or death not only for themselves but also their passengers, other drivers and pedestrians."

The study found that 42 percent of those who drove after binge drinking were coming from a bar or club, and that 20 percent of those binge drinking at bars and clubs subsequently operated a motor vehicle. On average, they consumed more than eight drinks during their most recent binge bout. In addition, many binge drinkers were not old enough to legally purchase alcohol. However, 20 percent of underage respondents reported being able to buy their own alcohol at a store, bar, or restaurant.

While there are a number of effective policies to reduce excessive drinking, Dr. Naimi concludes that current prevention efforts are "grossly inadequate." He says research supports the aggressive implementation of effective evidence-based strategies to reduce binge drinking, such as increased alcohol taxes and enhanced enforcement of minimum legal drinking age laws. The research also points to the need to continue or step up surveillance of the context in which binge drinking occurs.

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