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Binge drinking in the U.S. How many Americans have 15 or more drinks on a single occasion

Nearly 32 million Americans (about 13 percent of adults aged 18 and older) have had more than twice the number of drinks considered binge drinking, with some saying they had more than 15 drinks on a single occasion, according to a study made by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

”This important study reveals that a large number of people in the United States drink at very high levels and underscores the dangers associated with such extreme binge drinking,” said NIAAA Director, professor George Koob.

”Of the nearly 90,000 people who die from alcohol each year, more than half, or 50,000, die from injuries and overdoses associated with high blood alcohol levels,” he added.


The definition of binge drinking

Binge drinking is defined as having four or more drinks on an occasion for women, or five or more drinks on an occasion for men.

Four or five drinks can lead to alcohol levels greater than 0.08 percent, the legal limit for driving in the U.S.

Researchers have further graded binge drinking three into levels, when the four or five drinks limit is surpassed.

Level I binge drinking is defined as four to seven drinks, for women and five to nine drinks for men.

Level II binge drinking is defined as eight to 11 drinks for women and 10-14 drinks for men.

Level III binge drinking is defined as more than 12 drinks for women and more than 15 drinks for men.

The drinking patterns of Americans

Researchers from the NIAAA analysed data collected from 78,831 Americans over a period of two years who reported the maximum number of drinks they consumed on any day in the past year.


39 percent of adult males and 27 percent of adult females reported Level I binge drinking during the previous year.

11 percent of males and five percent of women reported level II binge drinking, while seven percent of men and three percent of women reported level III binge drinking at least once in the past year.

The study found that people who drank past the binge levels were more likely to experience an alcohol-related emergency, be injured because of drinking, be arrested or have a car crash.

Compared to those who don’t binge-drink, Americans who reported level I binge drinking were 13 times more likely to have an alcohol-related emergency.

Level II binge drinkers were 70 times more likely, and level III binge drinkers were 93 times more likely to have an alcohol-related emergency.

Level II and III binge drinking was common especially among study participants who used other drugs.

”Drinking at such high levels can suppress areas of the brain that control basic life-support functions such as breathing and heart rate, thereby increasing one’s risk of death. The risk increases further if other sedative drugs, particularly opioids or benzodiazepines, are added to the mix,” professor Aaron White, Senior Scientific Adviser to the NIAAA Director said.

Daniel Pruitt