The Latest Research on Young Men and Binge DrinkingReading Time: 4 minutes
College-aged men and women use alcohol in roughly equal numbers. However, binge drinking, particularly extreme binge drinking, continues to be far more common among young men.
Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings the blood alcohol level to 0.08 grams or above. For males, that means consuming five or more drinks within two hours. For females, it’s four or more drinks in that amount of time. Extreme binge drinking is about twice that amount.
Why do so many young men—more than a third of male college students—engage in binge drinking? Psychology, biology, and socialization contribute to this dangerous and potentially addictive behavior.
Alcohol Abuse Stats for Young Men and Binge Drinking
Rates of alcohol abuse among young women have been rising rapidly—to the point that they are nearly equivalent to alcohol abuse stats for young men. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2019, 51 percent of male college students used alcohol, compared to 53 percent of female students.
But males are still far more likely to binge drink. SAMHSA’s college binge drinking statistics show that 35 percent of male college students engage in binge drinking, vs. 31 percent of female students. In addition, men continue to binge drink into their mid- and even late 20s. Among adults of all ages, binge drinking is twice as common in men as in women, the CDC reports.
Know the Facts
19% of male college students report drinking 15 drinks in a row within a two-week period, vs. 6% of female students.
The Link Between Mental Health and Alcohol Abuse in Men
Why are men more likely to drink alcohol in such high quantities? For one, problems with young men and binge drinking often start in adolescence. Research shows that males perceive substance use as less dangerous than females do, and are also more susceptible to peer influence to drink and use drugs. In addition, problematic alcohol-related behaviors such as binge drinking are seen as socially acceptable for teen boys, and even considered “masculine” by parents, peers, and society in general. While girls are encouraged to talk about their feelings, boys are still socialized to be “tough” and told to “man up” when they express vulnerability or self-doubt.
As a result, young men who are suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety, or other common male mental health disorders often turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain, rather than talking about with loved ones or seeking treatment. One study found that 64 percent of people with alcohol dependency issues also suffer from depression. Moreover, research shows that alcohol consumption triggers a larger dopamine release in the male brain, which may contribute to men’s higher risk of developing alcohol dependence.
Furthermore, studies show that young adult men increase their binge drinking behavior when they have experienced traumatic events such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina—even years after the event. As a result, young men may be more likely to develop PTSD-related binge drinking habits in the wake of COVID and its associated stressors. Furthermore, drinking as a way to deal to stress or emotional challenges increases the likelihood that a young adult will develop an addiction to alcohol.
The Dangers of Binge Drinking
One of the biggest risks of binge drinking is alcohol poisoning. The body absorbs ethanol, the active ingredient in alcoholic drinks, faster than proteins, carbohydrates, or fats—it takes the body about an hour to process alcohol through the liver, notes the Mayo Clinic. This means that consuming four or five drinks in an hour gives the body more ethanol than it can handle, slowing nervous system function.
Consequently, binge drinking can affect muscle coordination, thought processes, heart rate, and breathing. Binge drinking can also catalyze the following mental and physical health risks:
- Cognitive impairments, such as problems with memory and learning
- Accidental injuries, including falls and drowning
- Drunk driving, leading to motor vehicle accidents
- Unprotected sex/sexually transmitted diseases
- Physical fighting
- Suicidal behavior.
Know the Facts
Each year, more than 22,000 US college students, ages 18–24, are hospitalized for an alcohol overdose.
13 Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse in Men
Binge drinking and alcoholism symptoms in men can manifest in both physical and mental health issues, including:
- Performing poorly in school or at work
- Neglecting favorite activities or hobbies
- Drinking in dangerous situations, such as when driving
- Weight changes
- Hanging out with a new group of friends and abandoning old friendships
- Becoming angry or violent when drinking
- Being unable to stop drinking even though it’s causing problems with relationships and daily life
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Sudden mood swings or personality changes
- Periods of depression
- Blacking out after a night of drinking
- Experiencing higher tolerance of alcohol and withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
- Inability to limit alcohol consumption.
Because young men may binge drink only on weekends or at parties, they may not realize that their drinking is becoming a problem. It is possible to develop alcohol dependence even when you don’t drink on a daily basis.
Treatment for Male Alcohol Abuse at Newport Institute
At Newport Institute, we address the underlying trauma and attachment wounds that manifest as anxiety, depression, and co-occurring disorders such as alcohol abuse. Therefore, our treatment approach for alcoholism symptoms in men goes beneath these symptoms to reveal the root causes of maladaptive behaviors like binge drinking.
Our team of experts utilizes a variety of clinical, experiential, and academic/life skills modalities to help teens build self-knowledge and healthy ways of coping. In our gender-specific environments, young men cultivate positive peer and mentor relationships, and speak honestly and openly about their struggles.
If you or someone you love is engaging in binge drinking or exhibiting other signs of alcohol use disorder, Newport Institute can help. Contact us today to learn more about how we guide young adults to sustainable healing.