Binge Drinking: Not Just a College Problem

Popular portrayals of binge drinking in the news and on TV can make it seem like it’s a problem largely confined to college campuses, but the simplistic stereotypes don’t capture the true scale of this problem. From the links between binge drinking and alcoholism to some surprising statistics, when you look at the evidence, it quickly becomes clear that binge drinking is not just a college problem.

Binge Drinking Isn’t Confined to Colleges

You may be surprised to learn that seven out of every 10 binge drinking episodes involve adults aged 26 or older. Additionally, out of all groups of binge drinkers, those aged 65 or older actually binge drink the most often, between five and six times per month on average. So not only does the majority of binge drinking take place in older adults, the oldest adults arguably have the biggest issue with it.

Truth Behind the Myths

The points above shatter the myth that binge drinking is all about college students, but there is a kernel of truth behind the exaggerations. Americans aged 18 to 34 are the most likely to binge drink, with 21 to 25 year olds having the highest rates. For underage drinkers (aged 18 to 20), 90% of the alcohol consumed is as part of a binge, compared to about half of the alcohol consumed by adults overall. The truth is that while binge drinking is more common in young people, there is still a very serious issue among older adults too. The prevalent narrative of the “college binge drinker” risks overlooking serious problems for older Americans.

Binge Drinking and Alcoholism

Most people who binge drink aren’t addicted to alcohol, but there is still a link between binge drinking and alcoholism. More than nine out of 10 people who drink excessively report that they’ve binged in the past month, and about three out of four people classed as “heavy drinkers” (men consuming over two drinks per day on average or women consuming over one per day) also meet the definition of a binge drinker. Although only 10.5% of binge drinkers meet the definition of alcohol dependent based on data from 2009 to 2011, this is much higher than the rate of 1.3% among non-binge drinkers. In other words, while most binge drinkers aren’t alcoholics, they’re much more likely to be than non-bingers.

Risks of Binge Drinking and Why You Should Get Help

Binge drinking is a dangerous pattern of drinking, with many side effects and increased risks of problems ranging from sexually transmitted diseases to car crashes. Binge drinking puts your liver at risk, makes injuries more likely and may even lead to alcohol poisoning. These serious risks are why you should consider getting help for your binge drinking, even if you aren’t suffering from alcoholism. Binge drinking counseling is available from many providers, and is designed to help you regain control of your drinking and reduce the risks to your health.


“Fact Sheets – Binge Drinking” – CDC “Binge Drinking Among US Adults” by Timothy S. Naimi, et. al. “Prevalence of Alcohol Dependence Among US Adult Drinkers, 2009–2011” by Marissa B. Esser, et. al.

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