High-Intensity Drinking: A Review

YSI researcher Megan Patrick and science writer Beth Azar provide a primer on current research in high-intensity drinking and call for standard definitions of high-intensity alcohol use in future studies.


Did you know …?


–  67% of college students reported 10+ drinking at least once during four 2-week data collection periods across a school year.


–  10%, or 1 in 10, of 18-20 year olds in the US recently had 10 or more drinks in a row, and 1 in 20 had 15+ drinks in one sitting during the past 2 weeks.


–  14% of 21-22 year olds had 10+ drinks in a row in the past 2 weeks before taking a survey.


–  High-intensity drinking is highest in the early 20s but even at age 25-26, over 12% report having had 10+ drinks in one sitting during the past 2 weeks.


–  High-intensity drinking is especially common on certain special occasions and at certain times of year. Examples are holidays, sporting events, 21st birthday, college spring break, and as college resumes in the fall.


–  High-intensity drinking raises the blood alcohol level and can do so quickly, also raising risks for negative consequences like aggression, drinking and driving, illicit drug use, injury, unsafe sex, and coerced sex.


Young adults who report high-intensity drinking also report more frequent binge drinking (having 5+ drinks in a row). College students who binge drank 3 or more times in the past 2 weeks reported twice as many negative consequences as those who binge drank 1-2 times in the past 2 weeks. Over half of those who binge drank 3 or more times experienced alcohol-induced memory loss (compared to 27% of 1-2x binge drinkers), 42% had unplanned sex (vs.  10%), 27% were injured (vs. 11%), and 20% did not use protection during sex (vs. 10%).


“High-intensity drinking” was published in Alcohol Research: Current Reviews and is publicly available in PubMedCentral.