June 7, 2017

According to a new report produced by The School of Public Health’s Center on Young Adult Health and Development in collaboration with the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy, a concerning proportion of college students are engaging in levels of alcohol consumption beyond the “binge” threshold, sparking new concerns among public health professionals. High-intensity drinking is the consumption of 10 or more drinks in a single sitting—or at least two times more than the binge threshold.  

According to the High-Intensity Drinking Emerging Drug Trends Report, “Binge drinking—namely, consuming four or more drinks for females and five or more for males in one sitting—has been the focus of numerous studies during the past few decades, and the negative impact of binge drinking on individual health, safety and well-being is clearly understood. But the finding that a substantial proportion of young adults are engaging in levels of alcohol consumption beyond the ‘binge’ threshold (or ‘high-intensity drinking’) is sparking new concerns among public health professionals.”

“About half of the people we call binge drinkers, who meet the typical binge drinking criteria of having five or more drinks in a row, are actually drinking about twice as much alcohol as that,” the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research Dr. Megan Patrick said. Dr. Patrick is the lead author on one of the recent studies that are highlighted in the report.

Another of the report’s findings is that while high-intensity drinking has stayed fairly stable among males, it has increased among women.

Director of the SPH Center on Young Adult Health and Development and Associate Professor Amelia Arria emphasized that more and earlier intervention is needed. “Regularly asking about alcohol consumption patterns to detect individuals at risk for problematic consumption should be common practice for physicians and other health care professionals who manage the care of young adults,” Dr. Arria said. “Early intervention to address problematic drinking trajectories is essential to mitigate possible health-related consequences.”

Related Links

Beyond Binging: "High Intensity Drinking"