In with the old and out with the new? A comparison of the old and new binge drinking standards

William Corbin, Suzanne Zalewski, Robert F. Leeman, Benjamin A. Toll, Lisa M. Fucito, Stephanie S. O'Malley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: There is consistent evidence that the binge drinking standard of 5+ drinks per drinking occasion for men (4+ for women) is associated with risk for negative consequences. Yet, many have questioned the adequacy of this measure as an index of intoxication (e.g., a blood alcohol concentration [BAC] of 0.08 g%). In response to these concerns, a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism task force recommended adding a time qualifier of 2 hours to this criterion. Although conceptually appealing, there has been little effort to determine whether this new measure better captures drinking that leads to negative consequences. Methods: This study examined the new binge standard (2-hour period) and old binge standard (no time qualifier) in relation to frequency of drinking to an estimated BAC of 0.08 g% and the experience of negative drinking consequences. These relations were examined within both a social drinking sample of adults (N = 200) and a sample of heavy-drinking young adults (N = 168) participating in a randomized clinical trial for drinking reduction. Results: Contrary to the purpose of adding a time qualifier, the new binge measure was not more strongly correlated with drinking to an estimated BAC of 0.08 g% relative to the old binge measure. In addition, when both measures were entered simultaneously into a regression model, only the old binge measure accounted for significant variance in negative drinking consequences. Conclusions: These empirically based results suggest that the original binge standard without a time qualifier may be preferable to the 2-hour standard as a marker for risk. The findings also suggest that further efforts are needed to identify a brief measure that effectively captures drinking to intoxication and related risk for negative consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2657-2663
Number of pages7
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • Binge Drinking
  • Consequences
  • Intoxication
  • Time Qualifier

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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