Binge Cities USA—and the Local Angle


Here's a list of the "binge-drinking" rates of 120 urban areas, as compiled by the American Journal of Public Health. (A binge is defined as having five or more drinks in a single bout of boozing.) San Antonio tops the list, with 23.9 percent of residents saying they binge; the national median is 14.5 percent. See where your hometown ranks and glow with pride (or shame)!

And here's a story about that list from the Cinncinati Enquirer. The story is less interesting for any information it conveys than for how it illustrates the passive-aggresion endemic to smaller-city newspapers when it comes to playing the local angle on a national story.

"Fewer here binge drink than in U.S.," crows the headline. But hey, Queen City lushes rule the region: "The binge-drinking rate in Greater Cincinnati, which includes Northern Kentucky and parts of Indiana, is slightly higher than rates in Cleveland, Columbus, Lexington and Louisville."

The study, which is based on surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control between 1997 and 1999–a period when all of America was drunk on the present and the future, if hazy memory serves–says that variation in rates is a combination of (duh) metro area age rates and gender splits, access to alcohol, religious beliefs, and pricing.

NEXT: Autoexploitation

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  1. I don’t think the problem is with the 5 drink cutoff level, but with the division of drinking into only two categories – binge and non-binge. While any number is arbitrary, having 5 or 6 drinks over the course of an evening (or in one sitting, or whatever) is qualitatively different from having 1 or 3. It is also qualitatively different from having 8 or 14. By failing to distinguish between the last two categories, the study fails.

  2. i wish i could find a link to an onion story from a few years back ’bout a group of scientists completing a study which found binge drinking was really fun.

  3. I always keep it to 2 beers and a joint. So what’s the problem?

  4. joe public – you want the polydrug abuse thread on your left.

  5. dHex,
    Thanks for pointing out that I abuse drugs by limiting my intake to 2 beers and a joint. Those substances should be consumed in greater quantities!

  6. joe,
    The big problem is that the actual factors that matter are completely ignored. 5 drinks in a 4 hour “sitting” is completely different than 3 drinks in a 1 hour sitting. That’s without taking into account strength of the drink, pacing and all sorts of other factors that come into play when defining dangerous drinking.

    By this definition, I binge every weekend. However, I’m pretty safe when I drink and pace out my drinks so that my BAC probably doesn’t break .1 more than once a quarter (I say probably because I don’t have access to a breathalyzer). Personally, I like tchiers definition much better.

  7. why dont we just ban the evil stuff, weve never tried that before.

  8. Mo

    I think they are “standard drinks”. 12oz beer, 6oz glass wine, highball or mixed drink with 1oz spirits.

    Even with the above there’s plenty of variation in alcohol content, but they’re close enough for a standard.

    Even so the 5 drink per session is still pretty vague. It sounds almost like reverse engineering. I wouldn’t be surprised if the “researchers” who came up with with this definition wanted to declare that x% of people “binge drink” so they took a survey, found that x% drank >5 drinks per session therefore >5 drinks per session is “binge drinking”.

  9. joe public – just trying to help. 🙂

  10. Hoping for Local pride, but Mpls/St Paul isn’t that high at 16.2. Milwaukee (22.7) and Grand Forks (23.4) kick our ass, and even Duluth (20.3), the Quad Cities (21.1), and Sioux Falls (21.4) do way better than we do. Geez, we’re the worst in the Upper Midwest.

    Tonight, I’ll toast Grand Forks for their accomplishment and this weekend, I’ll put my effort into seeing them go down.

    Go Gophers!

  11. Shot and a chaser? One drink or two?

    Let’s define our terms.

  12. Cincinatti isn’t in the US? Never knew that.

  13. Shot and a beer chaser, two drinks. Irish carbomb or boilermaker, one drink. I know (and sometimes drink) with some folks at NIAAA. I’ve asked them lots of specifics about their binge drinking definition. Sometimes I get answers, sometimes just looks. It used to be one sitting, but this didn’t take into account the bar crawl and other such rapid venue changes. More than 2-3 hours inbetween drinks usually signals a new bout (they are never as specific as you like). Oddly enough, drinking from 6pm one evening until the afternoon of the next (without sleeping or taking a 2 hour break) only constitutes one bout of drinking (likely to be binge unless you are really nursing it).

  14. So does a beer count the same as a Long Island Iced tea? If I drink 3 LIITs, I’m a lot more drunk than after I drink a 6 pack.

  15. You have to love these arbitrary definitions of binge drinking. It would seem if I’m at a grill-out that starts at noon and continues on into the evening, I’m bingeing if I have less than a drink an hour. Such a riotous lifestyle.

  16. In Britain a binge is defined as getting drunk and staying drunk for 2 days without interruption. This is not a “drunken pommie” joke I actually heard it reported that this is how British doctors define a binge.

    Five beers a “binge”? Give me a fucking break, when are they going to cut it down to three? 🙂

  17. Yet another “Alcohol Study” with a competely retarded definition of binge drinking. As people have pointd out, it’s not hard to find situations that meet the all-to-common “5 drinks” definition, yet that leave the imbiber sober at the end of the “binge”. Hell, I’ve had polite dinner dates where I’ve had 5 drinks.

    “Binge drinking” conjures up images of riotously drunk kids, and the definition should match that connotation. It’s drinking to get stinking drunk. A better definition would be drinking until BAC is over x%, where x is in the .15 to .20 range. But you can’t do that via telephone survey….

  18. The 5-drink binge that is not time-defined is silly, indeed. We have a local sports radio host in town who, whenever asked how much $ he makes, always replies “$1 million!” Of course, he refuses to say how long it takes him to make it.

    I suspect 5 was chosen as the magic number in order to shame anyone who has ever killed a six-pack of a afternoon and evening. Seriously, if 10 units a week is supposed to OK, an imbiber who has a drink or two a day is seen as sensible. Someone who takes no booze during the work or school week, then drinks it all in two “binges” on Friday and Saturday night may be asking for trouble. I doubt if any of the benefits ascribed to moderate alcohol use actually occur if one’s grog is saved up for the weekend. Of course, people are more likely to take such advice to heart if the researchers didn’t always seem to be dissembling.


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