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What is a Binge?

There is no internationally agreed definition of binge drinking; but in the UK it refers to a drinking session of 8 or more standard units of alcohol for men and 6 for women. In practical terms it has come to mean drinking a lot in a short space of time, usually with the intention of getting intoxicated.

How Much Alcohol?

For a number of years a unit of alcohol has been used as a comparative measure. A unit of alcohol is one standard drink: Half a pint of ordinary strength beer (3.7% alcohol by volume) A small glass of wine (125ml) at 8% abv A pub measure of spirits (25ml) at 40% abv However, today beers and ciders are usually stronger at 5-9% abv, Wine is often 12/13% abv and served in larger glasses ­ 175ml as standard A pub measure of spirits is now generally 35ml. There is also a range of R.T.D.’s (Ready to Drink) or “alcopops” in a variety of flavours and colours which start at around 5%abv.

Sensible Drinking

Sensible drinking was introduced as a harm reduction message to encourage safer drinking for those drinking at harmful levels. To avoid long term health problems a limit of 21 units a week for the average male adult and 14 units a week for the average female is recommended. These drinks should be spread out and not drunk all on one night! However, there is no recommended safe limit for children and young people and there is evidence from our towns and villages that many people do not want to be sensible drinkers. At one extreme death from alcohol poisoning appears to occur most often when relatively inexperienced drinkers consume large amounts in a short time. Blood alcohol levels in excess of 300-400mg% carry a high risk of death in a naïve drinker. This is equal to 6-8 pints of strong lager or two thirds of a bottle of vodka.

Risky Drinks & Young People

Research carried out for the Joseph Rountree Foundation Found that risky drinking is a complex issue, with many motivating factors and varied outcomes. Most of the young people interviewed described their reasons for getting drunk in positive terms, emphasising the belief that getting drunk is a beneficial thing to do.


To most people preventing alcohol problems means changing attitudes and behaviour at the individual level, such as helping people avoid problem behaviours like excessive drinking or drink driving. However, alcohol behaviour does not occur in isolation ­ it is shaped by our physical and social settings. To be effective in reducing alcohol problems, communities must take shared responsibility for creating conditions that support positive choices about alcohol.

Environmental Prevention

Environmental prevention aims to create communities that promote healthy behaviours and attitudes and reduce high risk behaviours associated with alcohol use. The Binge drinking culture didn’t happen overnight and is the result of long-term social change. Solutions will be both short and long term and involve the whole community: Community Norms ­ Social expectations and acceptance of heavy consumption encourage binge drinking and other alcohol-related problems. Promote public events that are alcohol free and stop irresponsible marketing such as ‘happy hours’ or student drinking competitions. Access and Availability ­ Alcohol that’s cheap and easy to get and available everywhere is linked to a variety of problems. Monitor and enforce alcohol laws. Media messages – Advertising and other media messages often glamourise excessive drinking, especially among young people. Enforce the advertising code, stop alcohol product placement in all films up to certificate 15’s. Promote positive coverage in the media. Policy and Enforcement ­ Policies in the public sector (government, local authorities) and the private sector (businesses, social clubs) and the enforcement of those policies shape how alcohol is promoted sold and consumed.

Action is required by everybody not just government or the drinks trade. The first step is realising there is a problem, and then recognising that there is something that you can do about it. It is a whole community issue and that means parents ,schools, the law, taxes, young people, etc., all are involved and can contribute to solutions.