The prevalence of binge drinking among primary care residents

Subst Abus. 2017 Jul-Sep;38(3):292-296. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2016.1212778. Epub 2016 Sep 20.


Background: Over one quarter of American adults binge drink, resulting in significant alcohol-related morbidity and mortality. Although brief interventions can decrease patients' alcohol use, many physicians in training do not provide this service. This study examines the prevalence of binge drinking among primary care residents, and the association of resident drinking behaviors with addressing patients' hazardous alcohol use.

Methods: Between July 2013 and August 2014, the authors surveyed all trainees in 6 primary care residency programs. The survey assessed self-reported frequency of binge drinking, confidence working with hazardous drinkers, and the performance of brief interventions when hazardous drinking was detected in patients.

Results: 221 of 246 residents completed the survey (response rate 89.8%). Half of residents (109/221) reported at least one episode of binge drinking in the prior year, and 18% (39/221) reported binge drinking at least once a month. In multivariable analysis, monthly binge drinking was associated with male gender (OR 2.5, 95% CI 1.1-5.4) and year of training (OR 0.25 for Year 3 vs. Year 1, 95% CI 0.07-0.90). Few residents felt confident they could help patients cut down or quit alcohol, regardless of personal binge drinking history (19% for those who binged monthly, 24% for those who binged 1-11 times a year, and 27% for those who never binged, p for trend = 0.31). Performance of brief interventions did not vary by personal binge drinking history.

Conclusions: Binge drinking is common among primary care residents. In addition to training residents to effectively intervene with hazardous drinkers, residency programs should address the high prevalence of binge drinking by their physicians in training.

Keywords: Alcohol abuse treatment; binge drinking; graduate medical education; internship and residency; primary care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / therapy
  • Binge Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors