College Students Aren’t “Binge” Drinkers

Most college students generally don’t drink as much or as heavily as people think and the term “binge drinker” is inappropriately applied to them, according to Kent State University researchers.

Dr. Dennis Thombs and his colleagues tested the late-night blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of Kent State dorm residents over an entire 15-week semester. The average BAC of the students was in the low to moderate range, well below intoxication.

Using the popular but idiosyncratic definition of a binge as being four or more drinks for a woman or five or more for a man, most of these students would have been improperly classified as “binge drinkers.” Dr. Thombs says that’s a serious problem because it reinforces the misperception that students are drinking much more than they really are and actually contributes to the problem.

These findings and conclusions are consistent with other research on the subject.


  • Thombs, D.K. et al. Field assessment of BAC data to study late-night college drinking. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 2003, 64(3), 322-330.; Foss, R.D. et al. BAC’s of University Students Returning Home at Night. Paper presented at the 78th Annual Meetings of the Transportation Research Board. Washington, DC, 1-13-99; Foss, R.D. et al. BAC’s of University Students Returning Home at Night. Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Alcohol, Drugs, and Traffic Safety. Barlange, Sweden: Swedish National Road Administration, 2000, available at; Lange, J.E. and Voas, R.B. Defining binge drinking quantities through resulting blood alcohol concentration. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 2001, 84, 508-518; Perkins, H.W. et al. Estimated blood alcohol levels reached by “binge” and “nonbinge” drinkers: A survey of young adults in Montana. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 2001, 15, 317-320.

Filed Under: Alcohol Abuse