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Can we better prevent binge drinking?
  1. N Waszkiewicz,
  2. A Szulc
  1. Department of Psychiatry, Medical University of Białystok, Choroszcz, Poland
  1. Dr N Waszkiewicz, Department of Psychiatry, Medical University of Bialystok, 16-070 Choroszcz, Poland; napwas{at}

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Mounting evidence of an accelerating binge drinking problem has received considerable media attention in recent years.1 2 Binge drinking occurs on a third of drinking occasions.1 In their article, Herring and colleagues2 explored a confused concept of the binge drinking term. Although a number of alternative terms are used to describe the binge drinking phenomenon, the term single drinking session leading to intoxication has become widely used over recent years by researchers and politicians.2

Despite the current prevention strategies (increased alcohol excise taxes, minimum legal drinking age, restrictions on hours of sale, banning advertising or reduced alcohol outlet density), binge drinking, in the concept of the single drinking session, is still a growing problem worldwide.1 Therefore, there is an urgent need to improve strategies for the prevention of binge drinking. Feedback given to patients on the basis of biomarker levels is an important challenge that has not been adequately exploited. Alcohol “bingeing” increases the risk of numerous acute adverse health and social events including poisoning, myocardial infarction, injuries, accidents, etc.,1 but other (eg biochemical) side-effects may not be appreciated. As changes in routine laboratory tests are only measurable after very high and prolonged ethanol consumption, new tests (salivary, serum and urinary β-hexosaminidase, and salivary immunoglobulin A, which increase after a single binge drinking session) seem to show promise in binge drinking prevention.3 4 Reported minor or lack of “answer” of alcohol abuse markers in young people might be the effect of relatively light drinking and rapid normalisation of elevated markers.3 Binge drinking is characterised by occasional high alcohol intake. Hence, the biofeedback properties of the binge drinking markers might be particularly/only applicable to such a “bingeing” population. In particular, simple saliva-based testing shows much promise for this method of prevention.

The majority of alcohol-related problems are found among binge drinkers and may precede the sequence of events leading to alcoholism. Thus, it is important to detect binge drinking as early as possible to prevent these events.1 As binge drinking levels are better accepted as part of a primary healthcare physician’s daily work than weekly drinking levels,5 guidelines for alcohol consumption should also be framed in terms of the number of drinks consumed on a particular occasion. Targeting new guidelines for people who “binge” together with feedback given on the basis of the potential biomarker levels might enhance the current prevention strategy and slow an alarming rise in binge drinking.


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  • Competing interests: None.

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