Moderate drinkers at risk for alcohol problems if they binge, a study finds

“This leaves many drinkers mistakenly assuming that a moderate average level of drinking is safe, regardless of how they drink,” said Rudolf Moos, emeritus professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, in a statement.

Moos is the co-author of a recent study that found that many moderate drinkers over the age of 30 actually end up bingeing on the weekend, defined as five or more drinks in a row or over a short period of time.

People who binge were about five times more likely to experience more alcohol problems, such as “getting hurt, emotional or psychological problems from alcohol, having to use more alcohol to get the same effect, and experiencing the effects of alcohol at work,” school or childcare, ”study co-author Charles Holahan, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, said in an email.

“This means that an individual whose total consumption is seven drinks on a Saturday night has a higher risk profile than someone whose total consumption is one daily drink at dinner, even if the average level of consumption is the same,” he said. said Holahan.

Binge drinking for adults

Most past research on binge drinking has focused on the younger generations, typically teenagers and college students. The consumption of several drinks in a single session is widespread in this segment of the population. But statistics show that a good number of adults over the age of 30 drink excessively and the problem is on the rise, especially among women and adults over 65.

Yet levels of binge drinking among adults may escape the “scrutiny of public health because it occurs among individuals who drink at an average to moderate level,” Holahan said. “Currently, binge drinking among moderate drinkers is largely unnoticed in primary care settings.”

Women are particularly sensitive to the effects of alcohol, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol-related problems appear earlier and at lower levels of consumption than in men, the NIAA said.
Women are more susceptible to alcohol-related brain damage and heart disease than men, and studies show that women who drink one drink a day increase their risk of breast cancer by 5% to 9% compared to women. who abstain.

For both men and women over the age of 65, the increase “is of particular concern because many older adults use drugs that can interact with alcohol, have health conditions that may be exacerbated by alcohol, and may be more susceptible to alcohol-related falls “. and other accidental injuries, “the NIAA said.

An “neglected” model.

The new study, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, used survey data collected as part of the Midlife Development in the United States study, which has followed a national sample of Americans aged 25 to 74 since 1995. .

The study analyzed nearly 1,300 drinkers over nine years and found that most cases of binge drinking – and multiple alcohol problems – occurred among individuals who were moderately moderate drinkers.

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“An average moderate drinker, for example, of one drink a day could reach that average with one drink a day at dinner or seven drinks on a Saturday night,” Holahan said.

While that behavior doesn’t necessarily lead to alcoholism, Holahan said, the study found that drinking on average more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men – or five or more drinks on the same occasion – was linked to alcohol problems nine years later.

“These findings indicate the need for alcohol interventions targeting moderate to moderate level drinkers in addition to conventional strategies targeting the higher-risk, but smaller, population of habitually high-level drinkers,” said Holahan.

Is your drinking a problem?

How do you know if alcohol consumption has become a problem? A telltale sign is when drinking begins to interfere with your ability to live your daily life, experts say.

“Alcohol use disorder is defined as compulsive alcohol use despite having negative consequences from your use, such as an impact on your relationships, your ability to function in your job or whatever role you play in your community,” Dr. Sarah Wakeman, medical director of the Substance Use Disorders Initiative at Mass, General Brigham, told CNN in a previous interview.

Be careful if you continue to drink despite the negative impacts on your physical or mental health. And he doesn’t have to be called sick or work with a hangover, Dr. Leena Mittal, head of the division of women’s mental health in the psychiatry department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, previously told CNN.

“Don’t forget about relationships. Do you have more disagreements? Do people in your life express concern or notice that you are different? Hiding your drinking or lying about it, these are also about behaviors,” Mittal said.

Here’s a red flag: You’re pouring large drinks without realizing it. Current American Heart Association guidelines require no more than two standard drinks per day for men and one for women and anyone over 65.

What is a standard drink? That’s 12 ounces of regular beer, 4 ounces of regular wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor, by US standards.

“Yet people might pour a huge glass of wine and not realize it’s actually two or three servings of wine and not just one,” Wakeman said.

“We know that millions of Americans drink above those levels, even in pre-pandemic times,” Wakeman said. “In 2019, approximately 66 million Americans had episodes where they drank beyond recommended limits.”

If you (or a loved one) appear to be struggling with alcohol, don’t hesitate to ask for help, experts point out. There are many different support groups that can help, such as 12-step programs and individual therapy.