Frequency of binge drinking predicts social problems

German alcohol treatment survey shows that frequency of binge drinking predicts alcohol-related social problems better than volume of alcohol consumed

As an alternative to AA, a self-empowering addiction treatment program allows people to work on eliminating negative outcomes from binge drinking by looking as past drinking patterns.

Medical, psychological, and social consequences of drinking are related not only to the volume of alcohol consumed but also to patterns of drinking. For example, binge drinking, sometimes referred to as irregular heavy drinking or heavy episodic drinking, has been linked to many negative outcomes. A team of researchers in Germany investigated the combined effect of volume and binge drinking in predicting alcohol related social problems (Kraus et. al., 2009).

The researchers collected data from the German Epidemiological Survey of Substance Abuse, conducted in 1997 and 2000. Participants included 12,668 current drinkers between the ages of 18 and 59. The researchers established 9 categories of average daily volume intake and 3 groups of binge drinking which allowed them to group participants into 22 mutually exclusive groups. The researchers defined social problems as concern of family members or friends, loss of partner or friend, repeated family quarrels, or physical fight or injury related to alcohol use.

Results showed that the effect of average daily intake was modified by frequency of binge drinking, and this association was strongest in individuals who had 4 or more binge drinking occasions in the last 30 days. The results suggest that the frequency of binge drinking is a better predictor of alcohol-related social problems than volume. The authors suggest that alcohol-related social problems may be reduced through alcohol treatment strategies that target heavy episodic drinking. This study also suggests that binge drinking is a major public concern in Germany that should be addressed through alcohol treatment and prevention efforts. Efforts to decrease binge drinking would decrease alcohol-related social problems as well as overall drinking.

“Using data from two nationally representative cross-sectional samples, this study adds to the growing body of research demonstrating that binge drinking in combination with average volume of alcohol consumption is associated with the risk of alcohol-related social consequences,” the authors conclude. “The present study revealed that 5.2 percent of the individuals in our sub-sample of current drinkers recorded alcohol-related social problems during the previous year. This yields to an estimated proportion of 4.3 percent (2.05 million people) of the 18- to 59-year-old German population that reported alcohol-related social problems during the past year. Alcohol-related social problems decreased with age and were reported more often by men than by women. Alcohol-related social problems were also related to binge drinking frequency during the last month and average alcohol intake was higher in those with alcohol-related social problems compared with those that showed no alcohol-related social problems.”

From a harm-reduction perspective, learning strategies to moderate could be a positive first step in choosing to abstain from drinking altogether. From a self-empowering approach, individuals are free to weigh the positives and negatives of their drinking behavior and make a decision to completely abstain or to moderate. Any improvement in one’s drinking behavior should be recognized as a positive step in recovery.

Kraus L, Baumeister SE, Pabst A, Orth B. Association of average daily alcohol consumption, binge drinking and alcohol-related social problems: results from the German epidemiological surveys of substance abuse. Alcohol and Alcoholism. 2009; 44(3): 314-320.

http://alcalc.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/44/3/314