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Binge Drinking Can Harm Brain in Just Months, College Students Beware

Binge Drinking Can Harm Brain in Just Months, College Students Beware

The newest round of research shows the damage of intermittent binge drinking in young people's brains

Those of you planning a rager for the weekend may want to postpone when you read the latest news surrounding everyone's favorite topic, binge drinking. Now, research shows even intermittent binge drinking can result in brain damage after a few short months.

The study, from the Scripps Research Institute, tested rats who drank alcohol steadily over six weeks and "binge-drinking" rats, who were only allowed to drink three days a week. They found that the rats who were restricted from drinking steadily over the course of the test drank far more than their counterparts. And those binge-drinking rats showed poor memory during their dry spells. But it goes much deeper than that: Those who exhibited binge drinking had neurons with unsually high activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is the control center for emotional and impulsive behavior. The Daily Mail explains that the more active the neurons were, the more the participants drank — and that could be the slippery slope into alcholism. Explained lead researcher Olivier George, "It’s like a lot of things in life that the brain perceives as good — if it loses access to it, you feel bad, you get into a negative emotional state, a little bit frustrated, and so you take more the next time you have access... We suspect that this very early adaptation of the brain to intermittent alcohol use helps drive the transition from ordinary social drinking to binge drinking and dependence."

Of course, the research is alarming for adolescents and teens who drink, because their prefrontal cortex isn't even developed yet. May we recommend one cocktail tonight, instead of eight?

Binge Drinking Is on the Rise in Older Adults&mdashbut What Exactly Is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking seems like only something college students do, but it turns out, many older adults drink alcohol in excess, too.

New research published this week in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found 1 in 10 adults over the age of 65 engages in binge drinking, putting them at greater risk for falls and other medical problems.

Researchers from New York University analyzed data on 10,927 people over age 65 who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2015 and 2017. About 10.6% of participants reported binge drinking, which the study defined as having five or more drinks at once for men and four or more for women, within the past 30 days. (That&aposs also the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism&aposs definition of binge drinking for people of all ages.)

The same group of researchers published a similar study in 2017, looking at binge drinking among older adults from 2005 to 2014. Though the two studies asked slightly different questions about alcohol use, less than 9% of people over the age 65 said they&aposd engaged in binge drinking during the past month in the previous study, which led researchers to believe rates of excessive drinking in older adults may be slowly rising.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends that people over age 65 who have no chronic diseases limit themselves to three drinks per day. However, 80% of older adults have at least one chronic condition, such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, according to the National Council on Aging (NCA). The NIAAA says those who have a health problem or take certain medications may need to drink less or not at all.

That&aposs because, according to the NCA, alcohol can worsen some chronic diseases (such as hypertension and diabetes), have a dangerous interaction with certain medications, or make people forget to take their medication all together.

"Binge drinking, even episodically or infrequently, may negatively affect other health conditions by exacerbating disease, interacting with prescribed medications, and complicating disease management," the study&aposs lead author Benjamin Han, MD, assistant professor at NYU Langone Health, said in a press release.

To make matters more complicated, the research also found cannabis use was higher among binge drinkers, a combination that may increase older adults&apos risk for falls. According to the NCA, falls are the leading cause of broken bones, trauma, and deaths among older adults.

Dr. Han said in the release, "Our results underscore the importance of educating, screening, and intervening to prevent alcohol-related harms in older adults, who may not be aware of their heightened risk for injuries and how alcohol can exacerbate chronic diseases."

What Drinking Does to Your Body Over Time

T he effects of having a few drinks can differ person to person, but often people may not realize just how risky their drinking patterns are, or what that alcohol is doing to them under the hood.

There are two definitions for “safe” drinking. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines say moderate alcohol consumption is OK, which means having up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has its own recommendation it calls “low risk” drinking, which sets limits for what levels of drinking will put you at a low risk for developing an alcohol abuse issue later on. This comes out to no more than three drinks on any single day and no more than 7 drinks per week for women, and no more than four drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week for men.

According to Dr. George Koob, director of the NIAAA, the current body of evidence doesn’t show whether there are significant differences between someone who drinks at this level versus someone who never drinks. In some cases, there’s strong evidence to suggest that moderate wine consumption could actually benefit the heart. Though Koob says some studies have been controversial and it’s not determined what it is about wine or other parts of a person’s lifestyle that could be at play. There are also individual patterns and sensitivities that people should take into consideration at this level. Some people can handle the amount better than others.

If you genuinely stay within the healthy drinking limits, you’re likely at a low risk for alcohol-related health problems down the line.

The concept of binge drinking is often associated with college students and drinking to get “drunk.” But evidence suggests that people beyond college age also maintain those heavy drinking behaviors. The NIH defines it as five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women within two hours. Some of the risks associated with binge drinking are well known. It increases the risk for sexual assault, violence and self harm. But the physical effects of such behaviors on the body are often less discussed. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there’s strong evidence to suggest that regular binge drinking can damage the frontal cortex and areas of the brain involved in executive functions and decision making. Alcohol slows down the pace of the neurotransmitters in your brain that are critical for proper body responses and even moods.

“Abstaining from alcohol over several months to a year may allow structural brain changes to partially correct,” the NIH says. “Abstinence also can help reverse negative effects on thinking skills, including problem­ solving, memory, and attention.”

Long term drinking can also hurt your heart muscles making them unable to contract properly. It can also harm liver, pancreas and immune system function. Heavy drinking can prevent the protective white blood cells in your body to attack bacterial invaders like they’re supposed to. Drinking too much alcohol can also increase your risk for certain cancers like mouth and breast. Regular heavy drinking also increases the risk for some alcohol dependence. “It creeps up on people,” says Koob.

You can calculate how many “drinks” your cocktail adds up to here and assess how risky your own drinking behaviors are here.

Risk factors for drinking problems and alcoholism

Risk factors for developing problems with alcohol arise from many interconnected factors, including your genetics, how you were raised, your social environment, and your emotional health. Some racial groups, such as American Indians and Native Alaskans, are more at risk than others for developing drinking problems or alcohol addiction. People who have a family history of alcoholism or who associate closely with heavy drinkers are more likely to develop drinking problems. Finally, those who suffer from a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder are also particularly at risk, because alcohol is often used to self-medicate.

The path from alcohol abuse to alcoholism

Not all alcohol abusers become full-blown alcoholics, but it is a big risk factor. Sometimes alcoholism develops suddenly in response to a stressful change, such as a breakup, retirement, or another loss. Other times, it gradually creeps up on you as your tolerance to alcohol increases. If you’re a binge drinker or you drink every day, the risks of developing alcoholism are greater.

How Bad Are the Effects of Alcohol and Binge Drinking When You're Young?

Answer: If you had the "typical" college partying experience, you should be a little worried.

You may have been the Mike&aposs-Hard-Lemonade-in-high-school type. Or the Bud-Light-from-a-keg-in-college type. Or the unlimited-mimosas-at-Sunday-brunch type. But chances are, at some point during your teen and young adult years, you downed a hefty amount of alcohol. While life is most certainly about #balance, unfortunately, no amount of kale or HIIT classes can totally undo the damage excessive drinking has likely done to your brain and body.

Case in point: The World Health Organization (WHO) just released a report showing that alcohol is responsible for more than five percent of all deaths worldwide, or around 3 million a year-almost 29 percent of which were due to injuries, whether unintentional or intentional (such as suicide). The next highest cause of death-acounting for 21.3 percent of alcohol-related deaths-is digestive diseases including liver cirrhosis, a huge driver behind the increasing number of young adult deaths due to alcohol use disorder (a.k.a. alcoholism).

You may think you&aposre part of the "moderate drinking" crew, but heads up: If you&aposve ever had four or more drinks over the course of two hours,you&aposve engaged in binge drinking. Yes, really-that&aposs about what it takes to get the average adult woman to 0.08 blood alcohol level, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). And before you even start with the "kids these days. " rant, listen up: Teens and college kids aren&apost even the biggest perps. One in six U.S. adults binge drink about four times a month, consuming about eight drinks per session, with over 70 percent of binge drinking episodes involving adults age 26 years and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The population that binge drinks the most? Retirees. Binge drinkers age 65 years and older report bingeing an average of five to six times a month-more often than even college students.

What binge drinking is really doing to your body.

While adults are just as guilty of binge drinking as The Youths, the health effects are way more serious for those age 25 and under. "Until about age 25, the brain is not fully formed and continues to grow," says Indra Cidambi, M.D., addiction medicine expert and medical director at the Center for Network Therapy. Meaning: Drinking too much alcohol can seriously eff it up.

When young people misuse alcohol, it causes damage to the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus, and the frontal lobe, which leads to deficits in visual learning, memory, and executive functioning (that&aposs your brain&aposs ability to plan, make decisions, and get stuff done), says Cidambi. For example, in research done on rats, one study found that binge drinking led to decreased neurogenesis (the process of making new brain cells) in the hippocampus, while another study found that it disrupts gene regulation and brain development in ways that increase anxiety and excessive drinking behaviors.

Then there&aposs the scary science of blacking out: At roughly a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .16, you become vulnerable for a blackout, according to George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, as recently reported by the Huffington Post. When you&aposre "blackout drunk" alcohol literally shuts down the ability of the brain to consolidate memories. After drinking for a couple of hours, the ethanol in alcohol can move from your blood into your brain and target receptors in the hippocampus (which controls functions like emotions and recollection), including one receptor known as the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor. When the alcohol messes with those receptors, it stops signals in the brain that create and store memories, explains Koob. And, boom, there you have it: a blackout night.

Aside from questionable effects on your brain, binge drinking also impairs your sleep processes, says Cidambi-which is extra important for teens for a ton of reasons, according to the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center. Early and excessive drinking also ups your risk of several serious illnesses including oral, stomach, and liver cancer, liver diseases, obesity, and heart problems like stroke, says Cidambi. This doesn&apost even touch on the secondhand risks of getting drunk, like having unprotected sex or drunk driving. (Seriously, unsafe sex is the number-one risk factor for illness and death in young women.) You might be thinking: "What about just having a beer or two?" The reality is that-at least when it comes to underage drinkers-90 percent of alcohol consumption is in the form of binge drinking, according to the CDC.

Being an early adopter with booze is bad news for addiction too: "People who drink before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence later in their life," says Cidambi. It doesn&apost look great even if you wait until 18 or 19: "If you look at the addicted population in America, nine out of 10 people started when they were teens," says Heather Senior Monroe, a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker, and director of program development at Newport Academy, which assists adolescents and families struggling with mental health issues, eating disorders, and substance abuse. (Some good news: Exercise is linked to a lower risk of alcoholism.)

Binge drinking poses some serious risks for your mental health too. It&aposs linked to a higher risk for depression and anxiety, says Cidambi. Sometimes alcohol is used to mask these issues-though they&aposre usually exacerbated after the drinks wear off, says Monroe, so you get a bout of depression and anxiousness along with your hangover. In other cases excessive alcohol can cause the issues, says Cidambi.

Plus, when you&aposre young, your brain isn&apost only developing executive functioning and memory skills-it&aposs also developing emotional intelligence, including how to cope with anxieties and fears. "If you&aposre hijacking that natural process with alcohol, your brain will remember that every time you were anxious you drank and it really worked. Your coping skills are going to become dependent on alcohol," says Monroe. This is more pronounced if you use alcohol as a default de-stressor as a teen (before you&aposve developed coping skills) than when you&aposre an adult (when you&aposve learned somewhat how to handle the downs in life).

It&aposs not your fault, either. Our culture has programmed us to expect alcohol at every social gathering, and to use it for any occasion: a tough breakup, a celebration, a Wednesday. "I don&apost think our culture has a healthy relationship with alcohol," says Monroe. "We actually use it as a social lubricant way too much, and way too often." Think about your own drinking behaviors: Are you dependent on alcohol in any sort of way, whether it&aposs to have fun, to relax, or to feel normal? "That&aposs when you&aposre entering a gray area," she says. "Think about how many people without substance abuse disorders use alcohol for those things."

What if it's too late?

If you&aposre sitting there thinking, "I did all of this, I&aposm screwed," take a breather. You can&apost get a do-over for puberty and college in order to redevelop your brain. (And, let&aposs be honest, do you really want to go through all that again?) Taking steps now to live a healthy life, and have a healthy relationship with alcohol, can help combat some of the damage from your wild years. "Your body is incredibly resilient," says Monroe. "If you get back on track with a healthy diet, exercise, good sleep hygiene, hydration, etc., your body is going to bounce back. The older you are when you decide to clean up your act, the harder it&aposs going to be."

If you&aposve been using a bottle of wine or a tequila shot to

for as long as you can remember, you&aposll have to relearn all the emotional skills you missed out on as a teen or young adult. "It&aposs almost as if these substances pressed pause on your emotional life," she says. "As soon as you decide to press play again, you just need to catch up."

A huge part of that is just allowing yourself to feel your feelings, to sit with them, and not run to the bar or get that drink, says Monroe. Channel that anxiety, stress, or heartbreak into exercise, meditation, a Beyoncé dance class, or some sort of creative outlet. Think: Better out than in. (Try this meditation for mental and physical strength.)

If you regularly got black-out drunk during your formative years, you&aposre not permanently broken and doomed to a mental institution. And you don&apost have to totally swear off booze-after all, it does have some health benefits when consumed *in moderation.* But if you still hit up unlimited bloody Marys at brunch every weekend? It might be time to rethink the drink in the name of your health.

4. You black out

Alcohol affects everyone differently because its effects depend on things like your genes (you’re four times more likely to have a drinking problem if one of your parents was an alcoholic), what medications you’re taking, and whether you ate a big meal (food slows the absorption of alcohol in your bloodstream). Still, researchers speculate that heavy drinking interferes with memory by disrupting a key brain messenger linked to recall called glutamate. If you’ve ever “forgotten” parts of the night until your drinking buddies reminded you, or have woken up in a woman’s bed, foggy about the details as to how you got there, you’ve definitely had one too many.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. 1,2,3 Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings a person&rsquos blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks or women consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours. 4 Most people who binge drink do not have a severe alcohol use disorder. 1

Who binge drinks?

Data sources: CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System and Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2015.

  • One in six US adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about seven drinks per binge. This results in 17 billion total binge drinks consumed by adults annually, or 467 binge drinks per binge drinker. 5
  • Binge drinking is most common among younger adults aged 18&ndash34 years, but more than half of the total binge drinks are consumed by those aged 35 and older. 5
  • Binge drinking is twice as common among men than among women. Four in five total binge drinks are consumed by men. 5
  • Binge drinking is more common among people with household incomes of $75,000 or more and higher educational levels. Binge drinkers with lower incomes and educational levels, however, consume more binge drinks per year. 5
  • Over 90% of U.S. adults who drink excessively report binge drinking in the past 30 days. 1
  • Most people younger than age 21 who drink alcohol report binge drinking, often consuming large amounts. 6,7

Binge drinking has serious risks.

Binge drinking is associated with many health problems, 8&ndash10 including the following:

  • Unintentional injuries such as car crashes, falls, burns, and alcohol poisoning.
  • Violence including homicide, suicide, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Unintended pregnancy and poor pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage and stillbirth. .
  • Sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease. of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
  • Memory and learning problems.
  • Alcohol use disorders.

Read more about the CDC study that found that excessive drinking in the U.S is a drain on the American economy.

Binge drinking costs everyone.

  • Drinking too much, including binge drinking, cost the United States $249 billion in 2010, or $2.05 a drink. These costs resulted from losses in workplace productivity, health care expenditures, criminal justice costs, and other expenses. Binge drinking was responsible for 77% of these costs, or $191 billion. 2

The Community Preventive Services Task Force external icon recommends evidence-based interventions to prevent binge drinking and related harms. 11 Recommended strategies include:

  • Using pricing strategies, including increasing alcohol taxes.
  • Limiting the number of retail alcohol outlets that sell alcoholic beverages in a given area.
  • Holding alcohol retailers responsible for the harms caused by illegal alcohol sales to minors or intoxicated patrons (dram shop liability).
  • Restricting access to alcohol by maintaining limits on the days and hours of alcohol retail sales.
  • Consistently enforcing laws against underage drinking and alcohol-impaired driving.
  • Maintaining government controls on alcohol sales (avoiding privatization).

The US Preventive Services Task Force external icon also recommends screening and counseling for alcohol misuse in medical settings.

It impairs speech.


While one study found that alcohol can actually help you speak a second language better, the same positive effects don't ring true for your native tongue. A study in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research shed light on how alcohol causes one of the most recognized effects—slurred speech. The study found that even moderate levels of alcohol significantly increased the difficulty of semantic access.

Definitional Background


An initial view defined binge drinking as at least five alcoholic drinks consumed during the same session (Cahalan, Cisin, & Crossley, 1969). However, the comprehensive College Alcohol Study (CAS) conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health characterized binge drinking as five drinks for men and four drinks for women on a single occasion within the past 2 weeks (Wechsler, Davenport, Dowdall, Moeykens, & Castillo, 1994). The adjustment to the four-drink cutoff for women was based on their lower rate of gastric metabolism for alcohol, which leads to higher blood alcohol levels compared with men for the same quantity (Wechsler, Dowdall, Davenport, & Rimm, 1995). The 5/4 definition is consistent with findings that after consumption of this amount or more, individuals are at greater risk for exhibiting serious alcohol-related problems (e.g., vandalism, fights, injuries, drunk driving, trouble with police, etc.) and subsequent negative health, social, economic, or legal consequences (Wechsler, 2000).

Despite the intended practicality of the CAS and other large scale survey definitions, characterizing binge drinking using only a “single occasion” within a specified time-frame may conflate the estimates of binge drinkers as defined by a pattern of behavior (Naimi et al., 2003 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2007 Wechsler et al., 1994), as both drinking quantity and frequency have been shown to be important indictors of risky drinking in college students (Presley & Pimentel, 2006). Additional issues include how a single 𠇍rink” is defined, consumption amount, and alcohol tolerance contribute to individual inebriation levels (Jaccard & Turrisi, 1987).

One attempt to quantify behavioral drinking employed blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level, such that a 0.08 gram percent—now the legal intoxication level in all 50 states (Alcohol Policy Information System, 2007)𠅏or a given occasion indicated binge-drinking patterns (Lange & Voas, 2000b). Another approach developed a Binge-Drinking Score from three questions of the Alcohol Use Questionnaire (Mehrabian & Russell, 1978 Townshend & Duka, 2002). This method used quantifiable assessments of drinks per hour, times drunk within the last 6 months, and percentage of time being intoxicated when drinking to calculate a summary score unrelated to the weekly consumption of alcohol (Townshend & Duka, 2005).

A standardized conceptual definition of binge drinking was proposed by the NIAAA in 2004:

A 𠇋inge” is a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings BAC to 0.08 gram percent or above. For the typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming five or more drinks (male), or four or more drinks (female), in about two hours. (p. 3)

A standard drink equals 0.5 oz of alcohol as is found in one 12-oz beer, one 5-oz glass of wine, or one 1.5-oz shot of distilled spirits (NIAAA, 2004). This definition of binge drinking is similar to many used in epidemiological studies, which employ quantity (BAC), consumption amounts, and episode duration. The definition does not specify, however, the time period or number of binging occurrences that would describe a long-term binge-drinking practice. Thus, NIAAA's definition characterizes single binge episodes but does not capture the consumption pattern associated with serious health and social consequences.


The inclusion of a past time-frame to quantify frequency of binging episodes is necessary to differentiate 𠇋inge drinking” from 𠇊lcoholism” or 𠇊lcohol dependence.” This temporal aspect of a binge-drinking pattern has been variably defined as the past week (Kokavec & Crowe, 1999), past 2 weeks (Wechsler et al., 1994), past 30 days/month (Okoro et al., 2004 SAMHSA, 2007 Zeigler et al., 2005), past 6 months (Hartley, Elsabagh, & File, 2004 Townshend & Duka, 2002, 2005 Weissenborn & Duka, 2003), and past year (Cranford, McCabe, & Boyd, 2006). These different time-frames emphasize various aspects of binge-drinking patterns, but their use inhibits direct comparison among findings.

The most informative time-frame appears to be within the past 6 months, as it is an optimal period to link alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems (Hartley et al., 2004 Townshend & Duka, 2002, 2005 Weissenborn & Duka, 2003). Longitudinal studies of binge drinking have established that college students inconsistently report heavy episodic drinking across time (Schulenberg, O'Malley, Bachman, Wadsworth, & Johnston, 1996 Weingardt et al., 1998), so that a 2-week time-frame would underestimate binging prevalence (Vik, Tate, & Carrello, 2000). A recent study found that nearly one third of those classified as nonbinge drinkers (υ/4 drinks) during a 2-week time period in the middle of the month were classified as either binge drinkers (𢙕/4 drinks, 1 or 2 times during the past 2 weeks) or frequent binge drinkers (𢙕/4 drinks, 𢙓 times in past 2 weeks) during the first 2 weeks of the month (LaBrie, Pedersen, & Tawalbeh, 2007). Use of a 2-week time period, therefore, would yield approximately 30% of heavy binge drinkers being excluded. A past 6 months time-frame for college samples captures the vacation time of the academic calendar during which students would be more apt to binge drink. Although longer time frames have yet to be analyzed, the ability to recall consumption amounts and frequencies accurately (e.g., recall bias) would seem to diminish with extended time frames. The goal in selecting an optimal time frame associated with a binge-drinking pattern is to optimize the accuracy of self-reported drinking amounts, while also capturing an accurate representation of this problematic drinking pattern. Further, employing a multiple binging occurrences evaluation strengthens the definition as these attributes together integrate the quantifiable dimensions of binge drinking.


The age of onset of regular (> once a month) drinking has been reported to be �.2 ± 1.2 years old (M ± SD) for high-risk children and 16.5 ± 1.2 years old for low-risk children” on the basis of a sample of 125 children (Hill, Shen, Lowers, & Locke, 2000, p. 269). Of the total 10.8 million underage Americans (12� years) who reported consuming alcohol in the past 30 days, 7.2 million (or 19%) were binge drinkers (𢙕 drinks on the same occasion on 𢙑 day in past 30 days) as defined by National Survey on Drug Use and Health (SAMHSA, 2007). Early onset of binge drinking or exposure to binging has been linked to the increased risk of binging in adulthood (Wechsler, Dowdall, Davenport, & Castillo, 1995 Weitzman, Nelson, & Wechsler, 2003). Other factors that predict binging include the following: never being married, having a grade point average of B or less, and placing little importance on religion.

The CAS study found that for a sample of 140 colleges nationwide, 44% of the responding students were binge (𢙕/4 successive drinks) drinkers (Wechsler et al., 1994). The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) study assessed adults who were 18 years of age or greater through a random-digit telephone survey across the United States between 1993 and 2001 (Naimi et al., 2003). The number of binge episodes (𢙕 alcoholic beverages in one sitting) among adults in the United States increased from about 1.2 billion to 1.5 billion. The younger adults in this sample (18� years) evinced the highest rate of binge-drinking episodes in the year 2001, whereas individuals older than 55 years had the lowest rate of binge-drinking episodes (Naimi et al., 2003). Differences in the prevalence estimates (CAS vs. BRFSS) may be due to different populations, with the CAS targeting college students and the BRFSS targeting the general community.

Most epidemiological reports indicate that men account for the majority of binge drinkers (Cranford et al., 2006 Wechsler et al., 1994 Wechsler, Dowdall, Davenport, & Castillo, 1995). The CAS study found that approximately 50% of the male and 39% of the female students were binge drinkers, with the BRFSS study concluding that men accounted for 81% of all binge-drinking episodes (Naimi et al., 2003). Furthermore, bingers in the BRFSS study were less likely to report any college education compared with nonbingers, although the opposite outcome also has been reported (Dawson, Grant, Stinson, & Chou, 2004 Slutske, 2005).

Racial differences were reported. Being White accounted for 78% of all binge-drinking episodes, and Hispanics demonstrated the highest rate of binge-drinking episodes per person for most of the years examined. African Americans constituted the lowest binge-drinking racial group, with fewer than five episodes per person per year (Naimi et al., 2003). Another large scale survey (N = 4,580) found a 33.2% prevalence estimate for binging (𢙕/4 drinks in a row during past 2 weeks) for Asians compared with a 60.7% prevalence estimate for Whites (Cranford et al., 2006). The high frequency of a 𠇏lushing response” after alcohol ingestion has been theorized to account for the lower binging rates in Asians. The aldehyde dehydrogenase gene (ALDH2, Chromosome 12) that is prevalent in Asian populations fosters severe and predominately negative reactions to a moderate dose of alcohol compared with a heterozygous or individual without the allele (Cook et al., 2005).

Drink Less Alcohol


Booze is a potent neurotoxin that has damaging effects on the brain. Researchers have found that chronic binge drinking can damage the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is crucial to memory.

The Rx: Experts say women should limit themselves to one drink a day, and men to two. After age 65, men should downsize to a solo drink too. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID .