How to Define Binge Drinking – Binge drinking is characterized by a dangerous pattern of excessive alcohol use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that binge drinking will cause a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to climb to 0.08% or above, and is defined as having at least four to five drinks within a two-hour period for women and men, respectively.
In the U.S., binge drinking is most common among people aged 26 and older. In fact, this age group accounts for around 70% of all binge drinking episodes. For some, especially those on prescription medications or other drugs, it may take a smaller amount of alcohol to achieve a BAC that reflects a binge drinking level.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines one “drink” as any of the following:
- 12 oz. of beer
- 5 oz. of wine
- 1.5 oz. of distilled spirits
A single instance of binge drinking does not constitute an alcohol use disorder (AUD), but binging does, however, significantly increase the likelihood of developing an AUD. A shift from sporadic binge drinking to full-blown alcoholism can occur rapidly, and considerable health effects and other harmful consequences will follow.
Roughly 80% of people who report binge drinking are not physically dependent on alcohol. Nonetheless, binge drinking accounts for the highest percentage of alcohol-related deaths. Because alcoholism is such an insidious condition, binge drinking, if left unchecked, threatens to overtake a person’s life, and could very well kill them.
Reasons for Binge Drinking
As time goes on, binge drinking is becoming more and more prevalent despite the ever-increasing amount of research that indicates just how dangerous it can be. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption is not only socially accepted but encouraged in many cultures.
Binge drinking is not the same as alcohol dependence or alcoholism, though it can be just as harmful. Consuming mass quantities of alcohol in a short period profoundly compromises a person’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being. What’s more is that drinking not only affects the drinker but may also impinge on the lives of their friends and family.
Some reasons for binge drinking include the following:
To Avoid Problems
Probably the most common reason that people engage in binge drinking is to relax and forget about your problems for a little while. After one or two drinks, a person starts to feel like everything is alright, so they continue to drink to maintain that feeling.
To Have Fun
One of the characteristics that define binge drinking is that people find it fun. A significant number of social events that people attend – parties, weddings, holiday get-togethers – involve alcohol in one way or another. Binge drinking at every occasion can rapidly lead one to become dependent on alcohol.
To Test Tolerance
Drinking games are a staple at many parties. During these games, binge drinking is turned into a friendly competition, as people seek to prove who has the highest alcohol tolerance.
Side Effects of Binge Drinking
Binge drinking has been linked to a wide range of health and behavioral issues. While some side effects are mild and only temporary, others can cause irreversible damage.
Short-lived side effects of binge drinking include the following:
- Impaired coordination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Memory loss
- Poor decision making
Consuming too much alcohol too rapidly puts one at risk for a variety of health problems and possible trauma. For example, alcohol slows reaction time which can put a person and other drivers and passengers in danger if he or she drives. Also, excessive alcohol use impairs judgment, leaving one at risk for accidental injuries such as sexual assault, domestic violence or acute alcohol poisoning.
In addition to short-term side effects, regular binge drinking can result in a multitude of long-term complications.
Several harmful and longstanding side effects of binge drinking include:
- Brain damage
- Liver disease
- Heart problems
- Increased risk of some cancers
The side effects of binge drinking depend on the amount and speed at which it is consumed, weight/height ratio, gender, other drugs involved, and medical history. Binge drinking impacts women differently than men – because females generally have less body water than males, they achieve a higher blood alcohol concentration level more rapidly.
Treatment for Binge Drinking
Recognizing the dangerous effects of binge drinking is the first step toward recovery. Those who regularly engage in binge drinking are urged to seek treatment for alcohol abuse on an inpatient or outpatient basis.
Our center offers an evidence-based approach that includes essential therapeutic services such as psychotherapy, psychoeducation, individual and family counseling, and group support.
Don’t let alcohol abuse lead you down a path of self-destruction. Our addiction specialists can provide you with the resources and tools you need to recover and enjoy long-lasting wellness and sobriety! Call us today to find out how we can help!