On average, six Americans die each day from alcohol poisoning—but they’re not who you might think.
While binge drinking is typically associated with teens and college students, more than 75 percent of the deaths are adults between 35 and 64, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 5 percent of the deaths were among 15- to 24-year-olds.
“Contrary to conventional wisdom, there is a lot of binge drinking going on by people who are post college-age,” the study’s co-author, Robert Brewer, said.
The findings are particularly alarming for men. Of the 2,221 deaths a year between 2010 and 2012, three out of four were men.
Binge drinking is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the U.S., which the CDC defines as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams percent or above. For men, binge drinking equates to five or more drinks in two hours and for women it is only four or more drinks in 2 hours.
“This is a huge problem,” said Harland Holman, MD, of Spectrum Health Medical Group. “I think many patients don’t realize the true harm in binge drinking and have a tendency to minimize their own drinking patterns.”
Men are more at risk, Dr. Holman said, because they don’t see their doctors on a regular basis. Men also tend to avoid open discussion about their health, and have been known handle depression and anxiety by self-medicating with alcohol instead.
Spectrum Health clinicians screen adults aged 18 years and older for alcohol misuse and provide behavioral counseling interventions to help reduce misuse. New medications are also becoming available to help treat alcoholism, but it is important to include counseling too, doctors say.
Certain medications can increase the toxicity of alcohol, and it is important to discuss your drinking habits with your primary care physician if you are on any medications.
According to national surveys, one in six U.S. adults binge drink about four times a month, consuming nearly eight drinks per binge. Men are twice as likely as women to binge.
Think you might be drinking too much? Binge drinking is defined as five drinks per day for men and four for women. “Using moderation and judgment is really the key to managing alcohol consumption,” Dr. Holman said.
Dr. Holman says common signs of alcoholism include feeling guilty about your drinking, and being annoyed or irritated when other people mention your drinking. He also says drinking in the morning (referred to as an “eye opener”) can be a sign of alcoholism.
Recently, The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), an independent advisory board appointed by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services (HHS) updated their guidelines. The committee now recommends one alcoholic drink a day for men.