Last Updated: April 2014
Author: State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup, Vermont Department of Health
Binge drinking is defined by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) as having 4 (females) or 5 (males) drinks in one sitting. NSDUH reports state-level data across 2-year time frames due to sample size considerations. From 2005/6 to 2010/11 (the latest state data to report age 18+ binge drinking) the rate has remained steady at approximately 27%. Over that time period, the prevalence in the 18-25 year old age group has also been steady at approximately 51% and remains the highest of any age group (see figure).
Until 2005 the data on this indicator were categorized by NSDUH into 2 adult age ranges: age 18-25 and age 26+. In 2005, NSDUH started reporting data for the age 18+ category. Even though the minimum legal drinking age in Vermont and all US states is 21, the age of majority is usually defined as 18. At this age an individual can legally vote, marry, enter into financial contracts, etc. Efforts to “bend the curve” have not proven successful for either age group so far. The good news is that there has been no increase in prevalence of binge drinking.
Up until recently most Health Department binge drinking prevention efforts were targeted to adolescents ages 12-17 because we could have the greatest impact given limited resources. To that end, binge drinking prevalence significantly decreased from 2002 to 2012 among individuals in that age group (see additional VDH links). However, binge drinking prevalence of age 18+ (especially among age 18-25) remained at unacceptably high levels.
It is important to realize that adults age 18-25 who are in college engage in binge drinking at a much higher rate than their non-college peers which is why there is a focus on college drinking.
A comprehensive approach using multiple evidence-based programs, practices, and policies such as those listed in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) or recommended by The Community Guide. These include programs serving youth and families, as well as community-wide strategies such as media advocacy and community education.
There are several programs and practices specifically directed to college age individuals. Increases to the tax on alcohol are directly related to rates of consumption – the higher the cost of alcohol, the less alcohol consumed. Restricting the number of alcohol outlets also reduces alcohol consumption and associated negative consequences such as crime, domestic violence, etc.
The Agency of Human Services has recognized this problem and begun to engage all divisions and departments that have a stake in reducing binge drinking, particularly among high risk groups.Together with partners, the Agency plans to continue to employ a comprehensive strategy including: education; screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment; and policy enforcement.
Specific initiatives include: