Alcohol consumption in humans is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States (McGinnis & Foege, 1993
). A common abuse pattern called binge drinking
contributes to a substantial portion of alcohol-related deaths (Chikritzhs, Jonas, Stockwell, Heale, & Dietze, 2001
). This type of drinking also is associated with alcohol poisoning, unintentional injuries, suicide, hypertension, pancreatitis, sexually transmitted diseases, and meningitis, among other disorders. As binge drinking is relatively common, it underlies many negative social costs, including interpersonal violence, drunk driving, and lost economic productivity, as reported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA, 2000
). These statistics have attracted increased attention from a variety of perspectives.
The term “binge” originated as a clinical description of alcoholics and was defined by periods of heavy drinking followed by abstinence (Tomsovic, 1974
). The word is distinct from the expression “binge drinking” that, since its conception, has engendered a wide array of definitional elements. This definitional difficulty originates from two different but related uses of the phrase: (1) epidemiological studies that emphasize isolated excessive drinking episodes, and (2) experimental studies that evaluate behavioral drinking patterns (Lange & Voas, 2000a
). The present review was undertaken to bridge these approaches and to provide a comprehensive, integrative, and useful portrait of the binge-drinking literature with a focus on young adult humans. We obtained studies through literature searches using “binge drinking,” “alcohol binging,” and “college drinking.” Ancillary terms, such as light or social drinking and alcohol dependence, were included when they occurred within the binge framework (Boyd, McCabe, & Morales, 2005
). The goals were to characterize the primary data and definitional attributes of binge drinking as delineated by current scientific findings.
summarizes the binge-drinking studies identified. Although the conceptual and empirical views of an operational definition have been slow to coalesce, technical agreement about binge drinking has evolved appreciably over the last 10 years. Specific reports are used to illustrate how the definition, its rationale, and utility have developed. The approach considers both quantity and frequency of consumption as defining characteristics of binge drinking. The review is organized into three sections: (1) Issues underlying the concept of binge drinking are outlined; (2) the relationship of alcohol consumption to binge drinking is highlighted; (3) binge drinking and its cognitive, physiological, and withdrawal effects are examined, with the influence of alcoholism, family history for alcoholism, and other determinants sketched. In the Discussion section, we review the implications of the findings and suggest future research directions.
Summary of Binge Drinking Studies