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About 17% of people in the U.S. binge drink, the CDC reports

By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — More than 38 million adults in the U.S. binge drink alcohol about four times a month, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report finds. The activity is more common among younger people, but older people who binge drink do it more often. The average highest number of drinks consumed at a time is eight.

The Vital Signs report released Tuesday defines binge drinking as having four or more drinks (for women) or five or more drinks (for men) on one occasion. Men and women 18 to 34 comprise the group with the most binge drinkers, but those 65 and older do it more frequently, about five to six times a month on average.

Researchers also broke down binge drinking by income, finding that the activity is more common among those with a household yearly income of $75,000 or more. But those who make less than $25,000 a year consume the highest number of drinks at a time, about eight to nine on average.

Areas in the country where binge drinking is more common include New England, Hawaii, the Midwest, Washington, D.C., and Alaska. The report also found that more than half the alcohol adults drink is consumed while binge drinking. Among young people it’s 90 percent.

Men who binge drink consume more drinks than women, and they do it more often: an average nine drinks five times per month, versus 5.9 drinks 3.2 times a month.

Surprisingly, the report also noted that most people who binge drink are not alcoholics or dependent on alcohol. But binge drinking does have serious health and social consequences, such as suicide and car wrecks, and it’s a risk factor for cardiovascular conditions and sexually transmitted diseases.

The figures come from a 2010 survey of about 458,000 adults in the U.S. age 18 and older.

“We need to work together to implement proven measures to reduce binge drinking at national, state and community levels,” said CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden in a news release.

Suggestions for curbing binge drinking include the government collaborating with states and communities in backing binge drinking prevention programs, states tracking binge drinking behavior, and healthcare providers screening patients for the behavior and helping them to stop.

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