Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Binge Drinking

(WEAU) - A recent report from the CDC addresses the prevalence of binge drinking among women and teenage girls.

More than 14 million women binge drink about 3 times a month.

CE: How many drinks at a time is binge drinking?

AA: For a woman, it is defined as 4 or more drinks per occasion, or 5 or more drinks for a man. The women reported to be binge drinking consumed an average of 6 drinks per occasion. An occasion is generally considered to be about two or three hours.

CE: Who is more likely to be a binge drinker?

AA: Women aged 18-34 and high school girls. Whites and Hispanics. Women with household incomes over $75,000. Most binge drinkers are not alcoholics. About 1 in 8 women and 1 in 5 high school girls are reported to be binge drinking.

CE: The statistics on the high school students are particularly worrisome.

AA: Yes, of high school students who report alcohol use, 45 percent of 9th graders report binge drinking. That increases each year to 12th grade when 62 percent of students who use alcohol report binge drinking. Individuals who begin drinking before age 15 have been shown to be about 7 times more likely to have problems with alcohol than those who start drinking after age 21.

CE: Can you remind us of some of the health consequences of drinking too much?

AA: 23,000 women and girls die every year as a result of excess alcohol. There are many increased risks of health problems, including breast cancer, liver disease, heart disease, sexually transmitted diseases, injuries, violence, and unintended pregnancies.

CE: This report focused on women. Can you tell us more about that?

AA: Binge drinking is an under-recognized women's health issue. Alcohol can affect women more quickly because of their size and the way they process alcohol. Women who don't know that they are pregnant and binge drink can bring significant risks to the baby during early development.

CE: How is moderate drinking defined?

AA: The U.S. Dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that if you choose to drink alcohol, women drink up to 1 drink a day and men drink up to 2 drinks a day. And of course, no alcohol at all for pregnant women and underage youth.

Dr. Arnold joins us every Monday morning on Sunrise.

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