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While you might associate “binge drinking” with unruly college kids at frat parties, new research shows having several drinks at a time is a widespread practice—17 percent of American adults binge drink—that’s 37.4 million people and 17.5 billion drinks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines binge drinking as having five drinks in about two hours if you’re a man and four drinks in about two hours if you’re a woman. 

While most binge drinkers are not dependent on alcohol, according to the CDC, there are serious health consequences to this type of excessive drinking.   

And while binge drinking is more common in people 18 to 34, half of those 17.5 billion drinks were consumed by adults over 35. It’s not just young adults having a few too many drinks on the weekend. We’re all drinking more than we thought. 

“Most people who binge drink probably don’t think that what they’re doing is so unsafe,” said Dr. Aliasgar Chittalia, an internist at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre. “But binge drinking can lead to serious health and safety issues—and it’s all preventable.”

According to the research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the average binge drinker has seven drinks per binge episode and may have as many as four episodes per month. 

Binge drinking is associated with an increase in car crashes, falls, violence and alcohol poisoning. It can also lead to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

And drinking frequently could contribute to a number of chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and liver disease. It’s also a risk factor for breast, mouth, throat, liver and colon cancers. 

“If you’re healthy, it’s okay to drink moderately, meaning one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men,” said Dr. Chittalia. “But having up to seven drinks in just a few hours can have some serious consequences.”

It’s not only important to keep the number of drinks to a minimum when you indulge; it’s also vital to understand what a drink is. No, the size of that wine glass doesn’t indicate a serving.

A serving size of beer containing about 5 percent alcohol is 12 ounces. But if you’re drinking a double IPA or an imperial stout, which are higher in alcohol content, know that the serving is just 8 ounces. 

“A serving size of wine is just 5 ounces, which may surprise you—it’s smaller than most people would typically pour into a wine glass,” said Dr. Chittalia. Wine contains about 12 percent alcohol.
And a serving of distilled spirits is 1.5 ounces—the size of a shot glass. Spirits contain about 40 percent alcohol.

No matter what you’re drinking, do it responsibly. Avoid binge drinking by enjoying a glass of water after each alcoholic beverage and limit yourself to one to two drinks a day. And never drink and drive.

“Slow down your drinking by ordering a non-alcoholic drink along with your beer, wine or cocktail, and keep a close eye on pours so you’re not overdoing it,” said Dr. Chittalia. 

Aliasgar Chittalia, MD, sees patients at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre. To schedule an appointment with an internist or primary care provider, call 800-275-6401 or visit