Overview: Moderate drinkers with a binge drinking pattern are five times more likely to develop alcohol use disorders than moderate drinkers who do not binge.
According to a new study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine†
After analyzing a national sample of U.S. adults, UT Austin psychology professor Charles Holahan, PhD, and colleagues found that moderate average drinkers with a binge drinking pattern were nearly five times more likely to develop multiple alcohol problems and twice as many. were likely to have more alcohol problems nine years later.
Moderate drinking is defined as an average of no more than one drink per day for women and two for men. Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks on the same occasion.
“What this means,” said Dr. Holahan, “is that a person whose total consumption on Saturday night is seven drinks has a higher risk profile than someone whose total consumption is one daily drink with dinner, even if their average drinking level is the same.”
This research supports a growing recognition that adult binge drinking is a public health problem and calls for increased public health efforts to address such alcohol use.
Research on binge drinking tends to focus on adolescents and college students, but most binge drinking occurs in adults over the age of 30, and the prevalence of binge drinking in adults is increasing.
However, research on adult alcohol consumption and its effects usually focuses only on a person’s average drinking level, masking binge eating. As a result, the impact of binge drinking among low and moderate adult drinkers has not been well studied or understood.
“In both scientific and media discussions of moderate drinking, drinking patterns are generally overlooked,” said Rudolf Moos, PhD, one of the study’s co-authors and professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. .
“As a result, many drinkers mistakenly assume that moderate average levels of consumption are safe, regardless of drinking pattern.”
To better understand the impact of drinking patterns, the researchers analyzed survey responses from 1,229 drinkers aged 30 and older. The data, from two waves of the Midlife Development in the United States study, showed the researchers how respondents’ drinking patterns affected them over nine years.
What the researchers found surprised them: Most cases of binge drinking — and of multiple alcohol problems — occurred in individuals who were moderate drinkers on average.
“Much binge drinking among adults escapes public health surveillance,” said Dr. Holahan, “because it occurs in individuals who drink moderately. These findings point to the need for alcohol interventions targeting moderate-level drinkers, in addition to conventional strategies targeting the higher-risk, but smaller population of common high-level drinkers. “
About this news about alcohol and addiction research
Original research: Open access.
†Binge drinking and alcohol problems in moderate average drinkersby Kaulie Watson et al. American Journal of Preventative Medicine
Binge drinking and alcohol problems in moderate average drinkers
A significant amount of binge drinking among adults escapes public health scrutiny because it occurs in individuals who drink on average. This observational study examined the role of binge eating pattern in predicting alcohol problems in moderate drinkers in a US national sample of adults.
The participants were 1,229 current drinkers aged ≥30 from 2 waves of the study of Midlife Development in the United States, with a delay of 9 years (2004-2015) (analyzed in 2021-2022). Negative binomial regression analyzes were used to investigate the number of alcohol problems, and binary logistic regression analyzes were used to investigate multiple (≥2) alcohol problems.
Independent of the average level of drinking, binge drinking was associated with a nearly threefold increase in the number of concurrent alcohol problems and a 40% increase in the number of alcohol problems prospectively 9 years later. Moderate average drinkers were responsible for the majority of binge drinking and multiple alcohol problems. Among moderate drinkers, binge drinking was associated with a nearly 5-fold increase in concurrent multiple alcohol problems and a >2 fold increase in multiple alcohol problems prospectively 9 years later.
These results significantly broaden the growing recognition that binge drinking is a public health problem in adults. Moderate average drinkers should be involved in efforts to reduce alcohol problems in adults. These findings apply to primary and secondary prevention of alcohol problems with the potential to improve public health.
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