The US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that close to one in five adults in the US are believed to be "binge drinking" an average four times per month. 

Around 38m of the 223m US citizens over the age of 18 regularly consume enough drinks in one sitting to constitute "binge drinking", said the agency today (11 January). Binge drinking is defined as at least four drinks in one sitting for women and five for men. 

While it is often assumed that binge drinking is associated with young people, CDC said that there is also a problem over-65s. The figures are based on self-reporting by 458,000 adults, said the agency, which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

CDC steered clear of explicitly calling for legislation to tackle the problem. Instead, CDC director Thomas Frieden said: "Binge drinking causes a wide range of health, social and economic problems and this report confirms the problem is really widespread. We need to work together to implement proven measures to reduce binge drinking at national, state and community levels."     

In 2006, CDC estimates that alcohol was the third highest preventable cause of death in the US. Excess drinking cost the economy an estimated US$223.5bn that year, the most recent year for which full and reliable figures are available, the agency said.