Alcoholism Research: A Survey-Based Study of Youth Binge Drinking Patterns

In short, what is the study about?

Binge drinking is defined as the consumption of five or more drinks in men, or four or more drinks in women, in a single episode at least once during the past 2 weeks.The National Institute on Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) identifies binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g per cent or above. This typically takes place after four or five drinks (for women or men, respectively) in a 2-hour period. In this study, we investigated the patterns of youth binge drinking, and its related consequences associated with social harm and disease burden, in a population of young Italian adults. The aim of our research was to gain more information about the main motivations and the environmental and socio-cultural factors that underpin these behaviors with a particular focus on the potential risks of alcoholic bingeing.

What would be the most important take-home messages from the study?

Our survey-based study indicated a 67.6 per cent prevalence of binge drinking behavior in a general relatively large sample; among regular alcohol users, 79.5 per cent reported episodes of binge drinking. This prevalence, although the term binge, its measurement and its utility are currently under scrutiny, is higher compared to previous European and Italian studies conducted with similar populations. Moreover, our work identified several serious consequences due to binge drinking, among which the most frequent were staggering and stuttering (81.7%), amnesia (50.5%), loss of control (49.3%), sexual disinhibition (45%) and aggressiveness (28.6%).

Our study also shows that females drink more than males (52.6% vs 47.4%, respectively; p < .001); this result contradicts most of the data indicating higher alcohol consumption in males.

Correlational analysis indicated that polyabuse is also a diffuse phenomenon. This represents a serious public health challenge, and pharmacological, toxicological and psychopathological effects should be considered, given that the interactions among substances may be unpredictable and fatal in vulnerable individuals.

How are these findings important in practice?

Our study provides additional evidence on the of binge drinking, not only on the health of the individual but also on social and work life. Notably, the term ‘social drinking’ refers to the use of 1 or 2 SDUs, typically consumed at meals and it is usually reported both in the common language and in the scientific literature. However, given the high diffusion of binge drinking, involving the majority of the subjects using alcohol, the label of social drinking might be changed, keeping in mind that this new pattern of alcohol use may lead to dramatic consequences, as shown by this and previous studies. Raising awareness about the seriousness of binge drinking may help health care providers to identify cases early on and provide appropriate treatments, as necessary.

What other studies can be recommended to further an understanding/application of the findings?

Bartoli F, Carretta D, Crocamo C, et al. (2014) Prevalence and correlates of binge drinking among young adults using alcohol: A cross-sectional survey. BioMed Research International 2014: 930795 (7 pp.). DOI: 10.1155/2014/930795

Martinotti G, Lupi M, Acciavatti T, et al. (2014). Novel psychoactive substances in young adults with and without psychiatric comorbidities. BioMed Research International 2014: 815424 (7 pp.). DOI: 10.1155/2014/815424

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (2004) NIAAA council approves definition of binge drinking. NIAAA Newsletter, No. 3. Bethesda, MD: NIAAA. Retrieved from

Matteo Lupi

Matteo Lupi

At the moment Matteo Lupi is a Resident in Psychiatry at the University “G. d’Annunzio”, Chieti, Italy. In the area of Addiction Psychiatry, he has produced a fair amount of papers concerning the alcohol dependent subjects. Besides, his publications are related to other typologies of addiction (polysubstance abuse, novel psychoactive substances), with a specific interest in the assessment and treatment of pathological gambling. Matteo’s research activities have also focused on a few themes that are integral to a thorough understanding of the clinical aspects of schizophrenia. Finally, he would like to mention his peculiar attention for the use of philosophy in psychiatry. His clinical approach is profoundly phenomenological, and he does consider the empathic relation with the person in front of the clinician as the most important stage of the therapy.

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Latest update: December 17, 2016
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