Binge drinking is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. Many people practice binge drinking without realizing the adverse consequences it can have. The practice is widespread among children, college students, and young adults. However, there’s no age limit to practice binge drinking or suffer the consequences.
What is Binge Drinking?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines binge drinking as a drinking pattern that brings someone’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above. Something like this can happen when someone consumes five or more drinks in about two hours.
Unfortunately, people who drink excessively don’t think they have an alcohol use disorder. Even still, one in six adults in the United States binge drinks almost four times a week, drinking about seven drinks per binge episode.
How Many Drinks is Binge Drinking?
The former criteria to determine binge drinking are set by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as:
- The consumption of four or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion for women
- The consumption of five or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion for men
Is Binge Drinking Alcoholism?
There is no formal binge drinking disorder identified by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). In essence, any individual who engages in regular binge drinking will most likely fall into the heavy drinking category.
Those who engage in this practice are more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder than individuals who drink occasionally. However, there is no specified amount of alcohol consumption formally deemed necessary to be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder.
While there’s no clear-cut definition of an alcohol problem, there are questions that a drinker could answer to determine the severity of their use. For example, drinking even when it causes problems at home or work can be a problem. Those who have to drink more to feel the effects of alcohol may be suffering from addiction. Cravings or frequent bouts of drinking can also be signs of addiction.
Why Do People Binge Drink?
Binge drinking behaviors typically begin in late adolescence or early adulthood due to peer pressure, experimentation, anxiety, or stress. However, the reasons people binge drink very extensive. One study believes that specific brain mechanics can drive people to overindulge in alcohol. The study looked at how two brain areas impact alcohol binge drinking behavior.
Most people start to feel the effects of alcohol within 10 minutes of taking the first drink. Binge drinking can lead to death from alcohol poisoning. It also increases someone’s risk of injury and death from motor vehicle accidents, drowning, and other accidents.
The most common short-term effects include:
- High blood pressure
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Low blood sugar
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sudden death from heart failure
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Unplanned pregnancy
While the short-term effects will eventually go away, long-term effects can be devastating. There’s not enough evidence about how low the physical effects of binge drinking last.
One recent study by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco found that 21 binge drinking sessions over seven weeks were enough to cause early-stage liver disease symptoms in mice.
Of course, we do know the realities of long-term alcohol abuse, which include:
- Risk of several cancers
- Alcoholic liver disease
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Risk of heart attack
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Risk of depression, anxiety, and psychosis
How to Stop
While there isn’t a diagnosable “binge drinking disorder,” it can still be a delicate problem. If you or someone you know frequently engages in binge drinking, it’s important to discuss with a licensed mental health professional specializing in addictive behaviors and alcoholism.
Focus on the adverse side effects of drinking to explain further the importance of avoiding binge drinking.
Binge drinking leads to an increased risk of:
- Becoming involved in legal issues and risky behavior
- Struggling with renal issues
- Suffering from cardiovascular disorders
- Developing cognitive issues
- Struggling with a mental health issue
- Becoming involved in accidents for being under the influence of alcohol
- Having issues with poor performance at work and school
It is crucial to find the alcohol treatment center with the right approach when addressing excessive alcohol use. The first step will be alcohol detox. This detox will safely help eliminate toxins and help elevate the withdrawal symptoms that occur when stopping drinking after long periods of regular consumption.
The next phase will be inpatient or partial hospitalization alcohol treatment. Therapy sessions focus on life skills, coping skills, and adjusting to life outside of treatment.
In a society where alcohol use is normalized, we believe it’s essential to find alternate ways of relaxing, dealing with emotions, and functioning daily. Additionally, intensive outpatient therapy and family therapy are options during alcohol rehabilitation. Eventually, a proactive individual in recovery will turn down that “first drink” that would have led to binge drinking in the past.
Finding Help for Alcohol Abuse
Most people need to seek help from treatment facilities to find the right treatment. Treating alcohol withdrawal and abuse problems will depend on the severity of their addiction; a specialist might recommend either an inpatient or outpatient setting.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a drinking problem, don’t wait any longer. Countless treatment options can help them conquer their addiction and manage any withdrawal symptoms. Remember, quitting potent drugs alone can be life-threatening. It’s essential to have the support and supervision of drug addiction specialists by your side.
At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we believe in offering customized alcohol abuse treatment plans for those struggling with drug abuse. On a case-by-case basis, we look at each program to cater to your needs and get better and walk towards recovery. From detoxification programs to group meetings and more, everyone in our team is committed to helping you win the struggle with addiction.