Binge Drinking

For adolescents who drink, the most common form of use (and the most harmful) is “binge drinking”—defined as having five or more drinks in a row within a couple of hours (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010).  Binge-drinking, in particular, is associated with poor school performance, and involvement in other health risk behaviors, such as riding with a driver who has been drinking, cigarette smoking, sexual activity, being a victim of dating violence, attempting suicide, and using illicit drugs (Miller, Naimi, Brewer, & Jones, 2007).   Consuming larger quantities of alcohol is also associated, among young women, with benign breast disease, a risk factor for cancer (Berkey, Willett, Frazier, Rosner, Tamini, Rockett, & Colditz, 2010).  Binge drinking can contribute to many health disorders including cancer, liver, pancreatic and cardiovascular diseases, as well as to a variety of gastrointestinal problems, neurological disorders and reproductive system disorders (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (2000).

One may refer to YRBS data to identify aggregate-level benchmarks for different grade-levels, genders, and racial/ethnic groups. For example, 2009 YRBS data suggest that, among 9th graders, the prevalence of binge drinking is 15.3 percent.  Referring to this data, programs working with this grade level may set a benchmark that no more than 10 percent of participants in the program report binge drinking at program completion. An example of an individual-level is that self-reported frequency of binge drinking decrease by a certain percentage (e.g., a 30% decrease).

It is reasonable to expect that the percent of youth reporting binge drinking will increase over time. However, if you find that the percent of youth who report binge drinking increases significantly while in your program, you may want to assess the fidelity and quality of service delivery (see Managing Service Delivery).

Sources Cited

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). 1 in 4 high school students and young adults report binge drinking. 60 percent of high school students who drink, binge drink. Press release.  Retrieved February 17, 2011, from

Miller, J. W., Naimi, T. S., Brewer, R. D., and Jones, S. E. (2007).  Binge drinking and associated health risk behaviors among high school students.  Pediatrics, 119(1), 76-85.

Berkey, C. S., Willett, W. C., Frazier, A. L., Rosner, B., Tamini, R. M., Rockett, H. R. H., and Colditz, G. A.  (2010). Prospective study of adolescent alcohol consumption and risk of benign breast disease in young women.  Pediatrics, 125(5), e1081-e1087.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010. 2nd ed. With Understanding and Improving Health and Objectives for Improving Health. 2 vols. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, November 2000.