woman asleep on couch after binge drinking

Women Who Binge Drink Face Dire Consequences

Posted on February 7th, 2014
Posted in Alcohol Abuse

Binge drinking is a dangerous pattern of rapid alcohol use that results in legal intoxication in about two hours. In the U.S., both underage and legal-age drinkers consume the majority of their overall alcohol intake during binge-drinking episodes. According to findings reported in 2013 by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), girls and women have unique, gender-specific risks for participation in alcohol binging. They can also suffer unique, gender-specific consequences from binge drinking, including a number of serious, pregnancy-related health issues.

Common Alcohol Use Guidelines

Any individual can develop problems with alcohol abuse or alcoholism if he or she drinks too much on a regular basis. Most people can significantly reduce their risks for these problems by keeping their alcohol consumption to moderate levels. Men meet the accepted guidelines for moderate drinking when they consume four drinks or less on any given day, and also consume 14 drinks or less in any given week. Women process alcohol more slowly than men and also commonly weigh less than men. For these reasons, in order to meet the guidelines for moderate drinking, they must consume three drinks or fewer on any given day and seven drinks or less in any given week.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinkers consume enough alcohol in about two hours to boost their blood-alcohol levels to 0.08 percent (the legal standard for intoxication throughout the U.S.) or higher. Men usually need to consume about five drinks to get drunk in this time frame, while women usually need to consume about four. By definition, these rates of alcohol intake exceed the established guidelines for moderate consumption. In addition to increased risks for alcohol abuse and alcoholism, binge drinkers have higher chances of developing a range of other serious, potentially fatal problems, including involvement in dangerous accidents, involvement in intentional violence, alcohol poisoning and several forms of chronic disease. Binge-drinking episodes account for roughly 90 percent of all alcohol intake among underage drinkers, the CDC reports. They also account for more than 50 percent of all alcohol intake among legal-age drinkers.

Statistics for Girls and Women

About 20 percent of high school-age girls in the U.S. binge drink, the CDC states in its 2013 report. Roughly 12.5 percent of all women over the age of 18 also participate in binge drinking. Women binge drinkers consume an average of six drinks per episode (far above the level required to produce intoxication) and experience an average of three episodes per month. According to the results of a study published in October 2013 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, young men and young women exceed the daily limits for moderate drinking with more or less equal frequency. However, young women have a substantially greater tendency to exceed the weekly limits for moderate drinking.

Gender-Specific Risk Factors

The female population groups most likely to participate in binge drinking are high school-age girls and women below the age of 34. The peak rate for alcohol binging occurs in women between the ages of 18 and 24. White and Hispanic women have significantly higher risks for binge-drinking participation than women in any other ethnic groups. White girls also have elevated risks when compared to girls from other ethnic groups. As a rule, African-American girls and women have the lowest ethnicity-related risks for binge drinking. When socioeconomic factors are taken into account, the highest risks for alcohol binging appear in women who live in households that make over $75,000 each year.

Gender-Specific Consequences

Girls and women share some of the potential consequences of binge drinking with boys and men. Examples of these shared potential outcomes include heightened risks for accidents, homicide and suicide; heightened risks for chronic health problems such as liver disease, heart disease and stroke; heightened risks for significant degradation of normal mental function; and heightened risks for several forms of cancer. In addition, girls and women are at risk for several potential gender-specific consequences of binge drinking. Examples of these gender-specific outcomes include increased chances of experiencing pregnancy-related problems such as premature births, stillbirths, miscarriages and low-birthweight children; increased chances of being exposed to sexual assaults and violence perpetrated by an intimate partner; increased chances of giving birth to a child affected by a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder; and increased chances of having a child die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

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