Binge Drinking

A brief review on what binge drinking ACTUALLY IS and why people choose this type of drinking patten. Plus, a complete section with how to identify a problem with bingeing and where to get help. More here.

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ARTICLE SUMMARY: Drinking too much alcohol in one drinking session is known as “binge drinking”.  But bingeing is not same as alcoholism. How? We review here.



Binge Drinking Definition & Levels

Binge drinking is known as drinking too much alcohol in a single setting. How much drinking qualifies for a “binge”?

The amount of alcohol consumed at one drinking session that qualifies as a binge drinking is significantly more than a person would normally drink. More specifically, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dl or above. This usually happens after:

  • 4 drinks for females
  • 5 drinks for males

…in a timeframe of 2 hours.

To give more context, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) considers binge drinking as 4 or more alcoholic beverages for women on one occasion or 5 of more alcoholic beverages for men (at the same time or within few hours) on at least 1 day in a month.

Finally, binge drinking is not yet classified as disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). As of now, this type of drinking refers to a behavioral pattern that can be a risk factor for developing alcohol dependence.

Is Binge Drinking the Same as Alcoholism?

No. Binge drinking is not same as alcoholism. However, prolonged binge drinking may lead to alcoholism.

In fact, most people who binge drink are not dependent on alcohol. Still, binge drinking is considered to be the most costly and deadly pattern of consuming alcohol. Excessive alcohol use such as binge drinking can put your health at serious risk. Binge drinking is connected with many health conditions including:

  • Becoming alcohol dependent.
  • Demonstrating violent/aggressive behavior.
  • Developing cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, or breast.
  • Developing chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, or liver disease.
  • Having memory or learning problems.
  • Risky sexual behavior.
  • Unintentional injuries like falls, burns, car crashes, or alcohol poisoning.

Why People Binge Drink

Reasons for drinking vary…and can be quite different. Some people start bingeing to as stress-relief. Some binge drink out of curiosity, while others drink excessively because they are already having alcohol problems. Moreover, reasons for binge drinking when you are in college are different than the reasons for drinking when you are older.

Some of the more common reasons for drinking too much at once include:

Boost in self-confidence. People who are shy or introverts may find it difficult to communicate with other. Alcohol has the ability to help you feel disinhibited, and thereby, can boost your self-confidence. So, when you are under the influence you might easily mix with others.

Changing your image. Men might binge drink to display dominance, strength, or a macho image. Moreover, some people claim that they feel sexy when they drink. This goes for both genders.

Curiosity. One of the common reason for binge drinking is wanting to know how and what it ‘feels’ like. This mostly happens after someone brags about his/her wild night out.

Forgetting problems. Most studies and surveys that investigate the reasons for drinking list this reason as in the Top 10. Letting go of stress, and forgetting your problems through binge drinking, may be okay for one night. But, if you start using binge drinking as a coping mechanism, and not dealing with the underlying issues, you may become dependent on alcohol.

Fun. Most people want to forget their problems, let go of their thoughts, and just enjoy. Binge drinking is a common event on parties. Also, drinking games such as Beer Pong, Pennies, and Never Have I Ever are based on binge drinking and having fun.

Peer pressure. Acceptance issues are most common among students in high school and college. If binge drinking can help you ‘fit in’, then so be it… this is the thought that can go through our minds. Unfortunately, this thought pattern can result in health, school, and work problems.

Rebellion. Rebellion is a psycho-social developmental phase that most teens and college students go through. They use binge drinking as a way to rebel against their parents in order to break the rules, and show independence.

Socialize. Some friends bond with each other because of their drinking habits. Sometimes, if you want to become a part of a certain group of people, the ‘only’ way to get in is through drinking. No one wants to be the cast out, so many individuals have decided to raise their glass than to be left out.

The list of reasons why people binge drink is not limited to this… but scientists and experts also add that the family history of alcoholism – and genetics – plays a huge part in why some choose this pattern of drinking.

One in four Americans aged 12 or older are binge drinkers. And 4 out of 5 binge drinks are consumed by men.

How Many People Binge Drink?

About 25% of Americans binge drink.

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a number of 65.3 million people aged 12 or older were binge drinkers in the past month. This number corresponds to about 1 in 4 people.

Moreover,  the Annual Total Binge Drinks Consumed by U.S Adults of 2015 announced that 1 in 6 adult Americans binge drinks about 4 times in a months, consuming about 7 drinks per drinking session. This makes a grand total of of 17.5 billion total binge drinks in a year, or 467 drinks per binge consumer.

Moreover, the same analysis reports that binge drinking is popular among younger adults aged 18 -34 years, but more than a half of the total binge drinks are consumed by people aged 35 or older. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 4 in 5 binge drinks are consumed by men,. The U.S. states with the most binge users are Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Hawaii.

Furthermore, Alcohol and Public Health: Alcohol-Related Disease Impact (ARDI) stated that during 2006 to 2010, excessive alcohol use was responsible for about 88,000 deaths. More than half of these deaths happen due to binge drinking.

Excessive alcohol use was responsible for around 88,000 deaths between 2006-2010.

Binge Drinking Among College Students

Drinking among college students has become a tradition that most of students see as a rite of passage into the higher education experience. However, most enter into college life with well-established drinking habits that started in their teen years, usually around the age of 13. Then, binge drinking peaks in young adolescents aged 18 to 22, and slowly decreases.

So, how many college students are current binge drinkers?

According to SAMHSA’s NSDUH survey of 2014 , about 60% of college students drank alcohol in the past month, while 2 of 3 students engage din binge drinking.

But binge drinking may cause serious problems to the health of these young lives…

A survey published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs reported that about 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes. Moreover, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported that about 696,000 college students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking, while about 97,000 students report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

Additionally, this study reports that 1 in 4 college students had academic problems (missing classes, poor exams and papers, low grades, and/or fall behind in class) due to alcohol use. Also, binge college drinkers who had at least 3 drinking sessions per week were 6 times more likely to perform poorly on a exam or a project, and 5 times more to miss a class than students who drank but never binged.

Tragically, NIAAA  reported that 20% of college students meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder.­

It’s better to drink in moderation,than to binge drink.

Don’t start to binge drink just to fit on your college campus, choose what’s best for you!

For more information, visit College Drinking Prevention.

When Binge Drinking Is a Problem

Binge drinking may become a problem when you start bingeing too often and/or drinking too much.

But it can be hard to tell the difference or to spot a real drinking problem. For example, some people may drink a lot in one session, but don’t have a drinking problem. The main point is that you have a drinking problem when drinking affects your life and causes negative consequences.

Some main signs of having a drinking problem include when you:

  • Black out or have trouble remembering what you did while drinking.
  • Cannot cut back on drinking.
  • Continue to drink despite negative effects on your health.
  • Drink more than you intend.
  • Engage in dangerous activities such as violence or driving drunk.
  • Experience a strong urge for drinking.
  • Experience withdrawal symptoms when you quit/cut down.
  • Have an increased tolerance for alcohol.
  • Have tried but cannot quit drinking on your own.
  • Have problems at work/home/school due to drinking.
  • Have problems with family and friends because of your drinking.
  • Lose interest in hobbies and activities because you want to drink.

If you have some of these signs, you may need to reach out for help. DON’T WAIT!

Drinking too often + Drinking too much = RISKY DRINKING!

Get Help for a Drinking Problem

Do you think that you may have a drinking problem? Get help as soon as possible!

Don’t be afraid, just reach out…

It can be hard to quit alcohol on your own, but don’t lose hope… today’s treatment programs customize the experience to match your needs.

So, where should you look for help?

1. Find a therapist.

Talk therapy is one of the most efficient for treating alcohol problems. You can learn how to find a therapist to talk through the issue by seeing this Psychology Today article here.

2. Find an addiction specialist.

Doctors who have specialize in addiction medicine can provide addiction diagnosis, prevention, intervention, screening, and treatment. Find a specialist certified by the American Board of Addiction here.

3. Find a psychotherapist.

You can ask for help from a psychotherapist for your drinking problems. This includes one-on-one therapy, family therapy, or couples therapy.  You can find a therapist via the American Psychological Association’s online therapist finder here.

4. Ask help from a psychiatrist. 

Psychiatrist are proven doctors that can help you deal with alcohol dependence. Find a qualified psychiatrist on the American Psychiatric Association (APA) website.

 5. Call our helpline. 

If you have a hard time dealing with excessive alcohol use, call the number you see on our website. Our addiction recovery specialists can talk to you about your drinking problems, and can help you find a way to deal with it.

Reference Sources: SAMHSA: Alcohol
NIH: What is a standard drink? 
NCBI: Undergraduate drinking and academic performance: a prospective investigation with objective measures. 
CDC: Binge Drinking 
NCBI: Annual Total Binge Drinks Consumed by U.S. Adults, 2015 
CDC: Alcohol and Public Health: Data and Maps 
NCBI: Defining “Binge” Drinking as Five Drinks per Occasion or Drinking to a 0.08% BAC: Which is More Sensitive to Risk? 
NCBI: Binge Drinking: A Confused Concept and its Contemporary History 
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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