The Dangers of Binge Drinking

Many people in the United States currently drink alcohol and a 2020 survey showed that of Americans aged 12 and older:1

  • 5 million (or 50%) consumed alcohol in the month before the survey.
  • 6 million (22.2%) binge drank within the last month.

Within the state of Nevada, 2018 and 2019 survey results were averaged to show that these percentages were slightly higher than the national average.2 Among Nevadans aged 12 or older:2

  • 52% drank alcohol in the last month.
  • 84 percent binge drank in the last month.

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking means drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time, resulting in a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or higher.3–5 The number of drinks needed to reach this BAC varies by a number of factors, including gender and body size.3–5

In general, binge drinking is having a certain number of standard drinks in about 2 hours: 3–5

  • For adult men: 5 or more drinks.
  • For adult women: 4 or more drinks.

A standard drink is 12 ounces of beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.6, 7

Why is Binge Drinking Dangerous?

Excessive drinking, including binge drinking, can increase your risk of:3, 5, 7

  • Accidental injury from falls, car crashes, burns, drowning, and more.
  • Blackouts (not having any memories from a certain time span while you were drunk).
  • Alcohol poisoning (overdose), which can lead to permanent brain damage or even death if not treated right away.
  • Certain types of cancer that affect the digestive system, liver, and breast.
  • Heart problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
  • Liver diseases.
  • Inflammation (swelling) of the brain, pancreas (pancreatitis), or stomach (gastritis).

Heavy drinking is also linked to an increased risk for depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, with lasting effects that can put people at greater risk of suicide.7, 8

In addition to the physical risks of alcohol use, people who binge drink are more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder (AUD).4 AUD is a chronic disease where you can’t stop drinking no matter the negative effects it has on your life.9

Negative Effects of Drinking

Over time, excessive alcohol use can affect more than your physical and mental health. Alcohol impairs judgment and self-control and can cause problems in all areas of your life. Some of the potential effects on your day-to-day life include:3, 5, 7, 10, 11

  • Increasing aggression, which may lead to fighting or domestic violence. These issues can lead to legal problems.
  • Issues with memory and information processing. This can interfere with your performance at school, potentially leading to poor grades and attendance, or at work, harming your ability to keep your job.
  • Drinking can create problems in your relationships. Since alcohol impairs judgment, things you say or do while under the influence may be upsetting or offensive to friends or family members. Avoiding friends and loved ones can also create tension. Additionally, becoming belligerent or aggressive while intoxicated can push family members or friends away.
  • Risky sexual behavior, such as unprotected sex, can lead to pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Drinking while pregnant can lead to problems with the baby, including fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), miscarriage, and stillbirth.

Who is More Likely to Binge Drink?

A 2020 survey of Americans revealed the following patterns:1

  • 1% of Americans (1 million) between the ages of 12 and 17 engaged in binge drinking in the last month.
  • 4% of Americans (10.5 million) between the ages of 18 and 25 engaged in binge drinking in the last month.
  • 9% of Americans (50 million) 26 years of age or older engaged in binge drinking in the last month.

Nearly 20% of American adults binge drink 4 times per month, having around 7 drinks each time.3 Men are twice as likely to binge drink as women and they generally drink higher quantities of alcohol than women.3 Binge drinking is also more likely in people with high levels of education and annual incomes above $75,000. However, people with lower annual incomes and levels of education tend to have more drinks per year total.3

Binge Drinking in College Students

In 2019, more than half of all full-time American college students ages 18 to 22 reported drinking in the month before the survey. Of these, 33% reported binge drinking.11 While drinking in college is a widely accepted practice, it can lead to dangerous results. Each year, about 1,500 college students die from alcohol-related accidents and nearly 700,000 are assaulted by a student who has been drinking.11

Getting Help for Binge Drinking

If you think you or a loved one may have a problem with drinking, we can help. American Addiction Centers (AAC) is one of the leading providers of alcohol treatment in the country. With treatment locations in Las Vegas and throughout the U.S., we make it easy to access alcohol abuse treatment no matter where you are.  Call our free and confidential helpline 24/7 at to learn more about how we can help you stop binge drinking.