Individuals who binge drink experience a wide range of problems.
Among adults (age 18 and older) in the U.S., young adults have the highest rates of binge drinking, and, among them, college students drink more heavily than their non-college attending peers (Slutske et al., 2004; OMalley & Johnston, 2002). While most binge drinkers are not alcoholics or dependent on alcohol, they are at higher risk for experiencing problems due to their alcohol use than those who do not drink at those levels. Those who engage in binge drinking are more likely to progress to meet criteria for alcohol use disorders, such as alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence (Knight et al., 2002; Wechsler & Nelson, 2006).
Heavy drinking causes a broad range of serious negative consequences for drinkers (Perkins, 2002b). These problems include poor school and work performance; engaging in risky sexual behaviors such as unplanned and unprotected sex; physical assault; sexual assault; vandalism; legal problems; and various intentional and unintentional injuries such as those resulting from motor vehicles crashes, falls, burns, firearms and domestic violence, and alcohol overdose (Dawson et al., 2005; Hingson et al., 2009; NIAAA, 2000). Binge drinking also contributes to chronic health conditions such as liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and uncontrolled diabetes, and can lead to neurologic damage (Babor et al., 2003; NIAAA, 2000). Heavy drinking among women who are pregnant poses risks for poor birth outcomes and fetal alcohol syndrome (Alati et al., 2006; Kodituwakku et al., 2006).
Many college students are likely to experience consequences related to their alcohol use because of high levels of drinking. Each year, more than a half a million students are unintentionally injured under the influence of alcohol; approximately 30,000 students require medical treatment after overdosing on alcohol; and 1,700 die under the influence of alcohol (Hingson et al., 2005a; 2009). Driving a motor vehicle is a particularly risky context for heavy alcohol consumption. The majority of the college student deaths from alcohol-related unintentional injuries result from motor vehicle crashes. Among college students, 29% reported driving after drinking and 11% reported driving after binge drinking. Additionally 23% of students said that they rode with a driver who was high or intoxicated (Wechsler et al., 2003). Women face particular risks associated with alcohol. Three-fourths of female students who reported being sexually assaulted were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the assault (Mohler-Kuo et al., 2004).