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Preventing Adult Binge Drinking

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States.* Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks, or women consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours.** Most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent.   Binge drinking is most common among younger adults aged 18-34 years, but more than half of the total binge drinks are consumed by those aged 35 and older. 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.***

Consequences of Binge Drinking

Some of the risks associated with binge drinking are:

  • 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.

  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

  • Sudden infant death syndrome.

  • Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease.

  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.

  • Memory and learning problems.

  • Alcohol use disorders.

Tips on Preventing Adult Binge Drinking
  • Change your environment. Think about where, when, and with whom you spend most of your time binge drinking. It can be difficult to cut down on drinking when you are constantly reminded of it. You may find it helpful to avoid certain bars or restaurants and limit your time socializing with others who also engage in binge drinking.

  • Weigh the pros and cons. Any time you try to change a bad habit, your motivation level is likely to vary over time. Keeping a list close by of the reasons why you want to stop binge drinking can keep you motivated to quit.

  • Reward your accomplishments. Use positive reinforcement to reach your goals, such as doing something for yourself when you get through a period of time or special event without binge drinking. This reward will help keep you going and set new goals for yourself.

  • Enlist family and friends. Support from your family and friends can help you to quit or cut down on your alcohol use. They can also provide praise and other rewards when you do well.

  • Consider abstinence. Some people find that quitting alcohol altogether is more manageable than drinking occasionally. Self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery help members abstain. Alcohol rehab programs, such as residential/inpatient and outpatient, can also help you reach your abstinence goals.

  • Set limits. If abstaining completely from alcohol does not feel right to you, try setting a limit on how much you drink. You might consider reducing the amount you drink, only drinking on certain days or during certain hours, or avoiding particular types of alcohol. Also, consider asking family or friends to help you monitor your alcohol intake.

  • Finding alternative, healthier ways of coping. Many binge drinkers find that alcohol allows them to cope with negative feelings, such as stress, depression, anxiety, and boredom. Replace alcohol with healthier options, such as exercise, self-care, sports, hobbies, and connecting with others.

  • Attend a detox program. When a person who is physically dependent on alcohol attempts to quit, he or she may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. 7 In cases of heavy and frequent drinking, withdrawal can be dangerous and may lead to delirium tremens, which can include seizures, visual hallucinations, confusion, and possibly death. Detoxing under the supervision of a detox program allows for withdrawal symptoms to be closely monitored and managed through medications, if necessary.

  • Consider medication. In some cases, doctors may prescribe medications to ease withdrawal symptoms and manage cravings. Medications such as acamprosate, naltrexone, and disulfiram may be prescribed.8 Disulfiram, also known by the brand name Antabuse, causes an unpleasant reaction when users drink alcohol, which can reduce the appeal of alcohol and serve as a motivator to stay sober. You can speak with your doctor to determine if medication is a good treatment for you.****

There are several programs and training that we offer to help in the prevention of adult binge drinking. Click on these pages to learn more:



* Sources: 

  1. Esser MB, Hedden SL, Kanny D, Brewer RD, Gfroerer JC, Naimi TS. Prevalence of alcohol dependence among US adult drinkers, 2009–2011. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014;11:140329. doi:

  2. Sacks JJ, Gonzales KR, Bouchery EE, Tomedi LE, Brewer RD. 2010 national and state costs of excessive alcohol consumptionexternal icon. Am J Prev Med. 2015;49(5):e73–e79.

  3. Stahre M, Roeber J, Kanny D, Brewer RD, Zhang X. Contribution of excessive alcohol consumption to deaths and years of potential life lost in the United States. Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:130293. doi:


**Source: National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. NIAAA council approves definition of binge drinking pdf icon[PDF – 1.62MB]external icon. NIAAA Newsletter. 2004;3:3.

***Source: Kanny D, Naimi TS, Liu Y, Lu H, Brewer RD. Annual Total Binge Drinks Consumed by U.S. Adults, 2015external icon. Am J Prev Med 2018;54:486–496. 

**** Source: An American Addiction Resource - How to Stop Binge Drinking.

Content on this page was provided by the CDC Alcohol Fact Sheets - Binge Drinking

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