Blog

May 18, 2016

High-Intensity Alcohol Use

image of a variety of alcoholic  beveragesBy: Youth and Social Issues Program

Alcohol use is a leading global risk factor for mortality. Consuming large amounts of alcohol in one sitting poses acute and long-term risks, ranging from impaired driving and alcohol poisoning to alcohol use disorders and disease. Despite historical decreases in alcohol use in the past decade, hospitalizations associated with alcohol overdose have not decreased. Therefore, a growing number of researchers are calling for improved understanding of high-intensity drinking. Survey Research Center (SRC) investigator Dr. Megan Patrick[1], is calling for more research on high-intensity drinking, defined as consuming 10+ drinks in a row.

For example, Dr. Patrick[2] and colleagues at the University of Washington investigated same-day predictors and consequences of high-intensity drinking (8+ drinks for women and 10+ drinks for men) among college students. This study aimed to examine when a given person is more likely to engage in high-intensity drinking. In particular, the research team looked at alcohol outcome expectancies (beliefs about the positive and negative consequences of drinking), the consequences of high-intensity drinking, and the ways in which these consequences were evaluated (from very good to very bad). College students aged 18-24 completed brief interviews on their mobile phones 3 times per day for 14 days during each of their next 4 quarters in school. On days when students reported higher positive or negative expectancies (such as increased sociability or aggression), they were more likely to engage in high-intensity drinking. On high-intensity drinking days, compared to less intensive drinking days, they reported more positive consequences that were viewed more favorably and more negative consequences that were viewed less favorably. High-intensity drinking was more likely on weekends and when participants drank at a bar or party.

Finally, Yvonne Terry-McElrath (an SRC research associate) and Dr. Patrick[3] examined high-intensity drinking among young adults in their mid-twenties, analyzing data on participants who were first surveyed as 12th graders in the Monitoring the Future study and then followed into young adulthood. They assessed the prevalence and trends of high-risk alcohol behaviors. At age 25/26, two-fifths reported being intoxicated at least once in the past 30 days; over a third reported binge drinking (5+ drinks) and well over a tenth reported high-intensity drinking (10+ drinks) at least once in the past two weeks. Sociodemographic and other characteristics associated with high-risk drinking in the mid-twenties included being male, white, unmarried, a non-parent, employed, and initiating alcohol use before finishing high school. The study highlights the need for improved screening and specialized high-risk alcohol use intervention strategies to reach young adults in their mid-twenties.


[1] Patrick, M.E. (2016). A call for research on high-intensity alcohol use. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 40(2), 256-259. dx.doi.org/10.1111/acer.12945. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26842244

[2] Patrick, M. E., Cronce, J. M., Fairlie, A. M., Atkins, D. C., & Lee, C. M. (2016) Day-to-day variations in high-intensity drinking, expectancies, and positive and negative alcohol-related consequences. Addictive Behaviors, 58, 110-116. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2016.02.025. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26922158

[3] Terry-McElrath, Y.M., & Patrick, M.E. (2016). Intoxication and Binge and High-Intensity Drinking Among US Young Adults in Their Mid-Twenties. Substance Abuse (online). doi: 10.1080/08897077.2016.1178681 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27092592