What Is Binge Drinking?
If you have a few too many drinks when you’re celebrating or out with friends, you aren’t alone. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)1 reports, “In 2015, 26.9 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month.” You aren’t alone, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned. Binge drinking comes with immediate and long-term risks. You can avoid these by learning more about binge drinking and what you can do to stop.
What Is Binge Drinking?
The NIAAA defines binge drinking as, “a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men—in about 2 hours.” The specific number of drinks required for a “binge” will depend on the individual, but this provides a rough outline for how much is dangerously too much.
Who Binge Drinks?
Binge drinking is common and widespread. It occurs in all age groups, genders, and social and economic levels. The Centers for Disease Control2 shares the following:
- One in six US adults binge drinks about four times a month
- Binge drinking is most common among younger adults aged 18–34 years, but is reported across the lifespan
- The prevalence of binge drinking among men is twice the prevalence among women
- Binge drinking is more common among people with household incomes of $75,000 or more than among people with lower incomes
- People with lower incomes binge drink more often and consume more drinks when they do
- Most people younger than age 21 who drink report binge drinking, usually on multiple occasions
Because binge drinking affects so many people, it is a real concern no matter your current environment. It is a real concern for everyone, as there is no single “type” hurt most by binge drinking.
Is Binge Drinking Dangerous?
Binge drinking is not harmless. The NIAAA shares, “An estimated 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States. In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths (31 percent of overall driving fatalities).” Binge drinking puts your health at risk. It risks the health and lives of those around you.
Immediate health effects can include memory loss, accidental injury, hangover, and a weakened immune system. Binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning, a dangerous health concern that requires immediate medical attention. Repeatedly drinking too much can lead to long-term health issues such as the following:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Liver disease
- Brain damage related to memory, attention and decision-making
- Mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety
Binge drinking hurts you and those around you, even if you only do it once. Regular binge drinking leads to more and more health concerns.
Am I an Alcoholic?
Although binge drinking doesn’t have to indicate an alcohol abuse problem, it often does. Even if a person does not have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol at the moment, binge drinking makes it more likely that concerns will develop. If you are young when you start binge drinking, the likelihood of addiction is even greater. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration3 found, “that males who were binge drinkers in adolescence were twice as likely to binge drink in adulthood…Females who were binge drinkers in adolescence were more than three times as likely to binge drink in adulthood.” Even if you are older when you begin binge drinking, you increase your likelihood of continued use and addiction. No matter how long you have been drinking, be concerned about addiction development. Signs of a problematic relationship with alcohol include the following:
- Feeling unable to control how much alcohol you drink or how often you drink
- Feeling strong cravings or compulsions to drink
- Drinking alone to hide your drinking
- Lying about how much you have been drinking
- Finding yourself regularly blacking out and being unable to remember what you have done or said while drunk
- Drinking in order to feel normal
- Feeling irritable or frustrated when unable to drink
- Developing a tolerance to alcohol such that you need to drink more and more in order to feel the same effects
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (such as cravings, nausea, shakiness and anxiety) when you don’t drink
- Spending less time with hobbies or activities you used to enjoy in order to spend more time drinking
- Experiencing problems with relationships, work, school, finances or the law because of drinking
You may experience some, all, or none of these signs of alcoholism. Addiction involves your personal relationship with drugs or alcohol. If you are concerned, don’t wait for textbook signs or symptoms to appear. Alcohol use should be safe and done responsibly. If it’s causing problems in your life, then it’s time to cut back.
How Do I Talk About My Concerns?
If you are worried about your or a loved one’s drinking habits, speak up. It’s hard to know what to say or how to say it, but silence only lets concerns grow. Binge drinking and alcoholism are serious problems. They are also problems that can be treated, if you reach out. If you are worried, act. You or a loved one doesn’t have to display all the symptoms of addiction. You may still have a good job, be a good parents, and avoid legal trouble. You may not. Either way, addiction is a problem and it needs treatment. You don’t have to reach “rock bottom.” You don’t have to wait for a troubled loved one to reach out to you. Call Black Bear Lodge, and let us meet you where you are. We understand it’s a big step to admit that you have, or a loved one has, a problem with drinking. It’s taken great courage and strength to get this far. Now it’s time to take the next step. Learn more about how our comprehensive treatment program can help you or your loved one find lasting recovery and freedom from alcohol and the concerns of binge drinking.
1 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” Feb. 2017. Accessed 20 Jul. 2017.
2 Centers for Disease Control. “Fast Facts – Binge Drinking.” 7 Jun. 2017. Accessed 20 Jul. 2017.
3 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Binge Drinking: Terminology and Patterns of Use.” 22 Nov. 2016. Accessed 20 Jul. 2017.