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Binge Drinking: Not Just a College Problem

A man holds a drink in each hand. Binge drinking can occur at any ageWhen we think of binge drinking, we usually think of college-age kids, frat parties, keg stands. Rarely do we associate binge drinking with those in middle age or retirement age. But according to research by Duke University and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 22 percent of men (more than one in five) and 9 percent of women, age 50 – 64 engage in binge drinking. Among those over the age of 65, 14 percent of men and 3 percent of women reported binge drinking. In fact, there are a considerable number of older Americans who consume enough alcohol on a daily basis to be classified as heaving drinkers (19 percent men and 13 percent women). This debunks the myth that binge drinking is only a problem among college students.

What’s troubling about these numbers it that heavy drinking poses more health risks for people over the age of 50 than it does for people of a younger age. One reason is because their bodies metabolize alcohol less quickly. Another reason is that they may be on other medications, many that become dangerous when combined with alcohol. This demographic may also have more existing health problems that alcohol consumption can exacerbate.

“We feel that our findings are important to the public health of middle-aged and elderly persons as they point to a potentially unrecognized problem that often ‘flies beneath’ the typical screen for alcohol problems in psychiatry practices,” said one of the authors of the study as reported by Medical News Today. “Clinicians who work with this age group would be well advised to ask specifically about binge drinking.”

Not only is binge drinking often missed by common screening methods, but it is often overlooked by physicians as a health risk in older individuals because of the misperception regarding age. Doctor’s aren’t asking their older patients, because they don’t expect them to be binge drinking. Don’t disregard the possibility of binge drinking because you or a loved one is not of a certain age.

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