Binge drinking is on the rise in this country. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington reports that, since 2005, heavy drinking in the U.S. has gone up by 17.2%, and binge drinking has risen by 8.9%.
And Indiana is no exception to this general rule. A Ball State report found that more than one-third of Indiana adults who drink admit to binging regularly on alcohol.
Despite the way some comedians characterize drunken behavior as amusing, binge drinking is no laughing matter. It contributes to vehicular injuries and deaths, especially those of teens and young adults; it damages the health of drinkers; and it can harm families. It’s a sad situation all around.
Defining Binge Drinking and DUI Levels
Binge drinking is defined as drinking enough alcohol to bring blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 percent (80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood). This generally means five drinks or more for a man, or four drinks or more for a woman, in roughly two hours.
In Indiana, if you have a BAC of 0.08 or higher, and you are over 21, you can be charged with OWI. [In Indiana, driving under the influence (DUI) is more commonly known as operating while intoxicated (OWI)]. This BAC figure drops to 0.04 if you are driving for commercial purposes and 0.02 if you are under 21.
More than 38 million Americans, or about one in six, participate in binge drinking about four times a month. Most binge drinking is done by those in the 18 to 34 age group, although binge drinkers over 65 reportedly binge more often than young adults do.
Other interesting points:
- The income group that contains the most binge drinkers are those who make over $75,000 a year.
- The income group that binges most often, and drinks the most when they binge, are those making under $25,000 a year.
- The largest average number of drinks consumed while binging is eight. (In Indiana, that number is between 7.8 and 9.0.)
- Most drivers who are under the influence binge-drink.
Among youth, more than 90 percent of the alcohol they consume is done so during binging.
Risks to Drinkers and Risks to Others
The list of things that can harm binge drinkers is long. Some of the more common ones are:
• Damage to internal organs (mainly the liver, heart, and brain)
• Sexually-transmitted diseases because of risky behavior
• Fights and violence
• Alcohol poisoning.
But one of the biggest risks to both drinkers and others is driving under the influence. One in ten teens in high school drinks and drives. The results can be tragic. Drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 are 17 times more likely to die in a crash if their BAC is 0.08 than if they had not been drinking.
In 2012, there were 259 alcohol-related deaths in Indiana, about 33 percent of all vehicular deaths. In 2014, alcohol-related crash injuries were 2,388. Clearly, binge drinking and operating while intoxicated can cause a lot of misery and heartache for innocent parties.
Submitted by Mike Stephenson
Mike Stephenson is an Attorney at Law in Indiana, who specializes in Indiana drunk driving accidents.