ATLANTA (AP) — College-age drinkers average nine drinks when they get drunk, government health officials say.

That statistic is part of a new report highlighting the dangers of binge drinking, which usually means four to five drinks at a time.

Overall, about one in six adults surveyed said they had binged on alcohol at least once in the previous month, though it was more than one in four for those aged 18 to 34.

And that's likely an underestimate. Alcohol sales figures suggest people are buying a lot more alcohol than they say they are consuming. Health officials estimate that about half of the beer, wine and liquor consumed in the United States by adults each year is downed during binge drinking.

The CDC report is based on telephone surveys last year of more than 450,000 adults. They were asked about their alcohol drinking in the past month, including the largest number of drinks they had at one time.

Binge drinking maybe considered socially acceptable — to many, a fun night out at the bar. And many don't see it as a sign of a serious drinking problem. Indeed, experts say fewer than 20 percent of binge drinkers would be medically diagnosed as alcoholics.

But health officials say binge drinking accounts for more than 40,000 deaths each year. It contributes to problems such as violence and drunk-driving accidents and longer-term issues like cancer, heart disease and liver failure.

The report also says that binge drinking continues to be most common in men, people who have been to college and those with incomes of $75,000 or more.

Also, only about four percent of people 65 and older binge drink, far fewer than adults in other age groups. But they do it more often — five times a month, on average. Younger adults average closer to four episodes per month.

ON THE NET

CDC report:
cdc.gov/vitalsigns

Cocktail content calculator: bit.ly/dBPYre