Beyond the "Binge" threshold: heavy drinking patterns and their association with alcohol involvement indices in college students.Addict Behav. 2008 Feb; 33(2):225-34.AB
Despite its ubiquity, the term "Binge" drinking has been controversial. Among other things, the grouping of drinkers into a single risk category based on a relatively low threshold may not capture adequately the nature of problem drinking behaviors. The present study is an initial examination of the utility of delineating heavy drinkers into three groups; those who typically drink below the traditional "Binge" cutoff (less than 4+/5+ drinks per occasion for women/men), those who met traditional "Binge" drinking criteria, and a higher "Binge" cutoff of 6+/7+ (women, men). We examined differences in drunkenness, drinking frequency, and unique types of alcohol problems. Participants (N=356; 184 women) were regularly drinking college students at a mid-sized U.S. university who completed a battery of self-report measures including a calendar of daily alcohol consumption, and the 8-domain Young Adult Alcohol Consequences Questionnaire (YAACQ). Estimated Blood Alcohol Levels (eBALs) were calculated. We found that the standard 4+/5+ drink "Binge" cutoff distinguishes drinkers across some but not all indices of alcohol involvement. "Binge" drinkers differed from their "Non-Binge" counterparts on eBAL, but for other indicators (drinking frequency, total alcohol consequences), only "Heavy Binge" drinkers differed significantly from "Non-Binge" drinkers. Importantly, "Heavy Binge" drinkers experienced higher levels of those specific consequences associated with more problematic alcohol involvement. Findings suggest that not all "Binge" drinkers drink alike, are equally drunk, or experience similar consequences. As such, there may be utility in distinguishing among heavy drinkers, in order to focus appropriately on those at greatest risk for different types of consequences.