TUESDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- More than one in four U.S. teens and young adults admit they are binge drinkers, health officials said Tuesday.
In the United States, binge drinking is defined as having four or more drinks for women, and five or more drinks for men, over a couple of hours -- numbers that are different because men and women metabolize alcohol differently.
And it's not just teens who are affected. According to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 33 million adults have reported binge drinking in the past year.
"Binge drinking is a very large health and social problem" and one that has gone largely unnoticed, CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said during a noon press conference Tuesday. "Most people who binge drink are not alcoholic. It may be because binge drinking has not been recognized as a problem [that] it has not decreased in the past 15 years."
Nonetheless, the toll of binge drinking is enormous.
More than 79,000 deaths each year in the United States result from drinking too much, with about half of these attributable to binge drinking, according to Dr. Robert Brewer, alcohol program leader at CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Binge drinkers also put themselves and others at risk for alcohol-related car accidents, violence, HIV transmission and sexually transmitted diseases, and unplanned pregnancy, according to the CDC.
Moreover, drinking too much can lead to liver disease, certain cancers, heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases. Pregnant women who binge drink can also harm their developing fetus, resulting in permanent mental retardation and other birth defects, the CDC says.
And among teenagers, damage from regular binge drinking may far outlast a hangover the next morning. An earlier study found that in MRI scans, t
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