Binge Drinking Explained
Binge drinking is one of the most common types of drinking among young people. It's seen on college campuses all over the United States. High school students participate in it regularly, and even older adults participate in it from time to time.
What many people don't realize is that binge drinking is dangerous. It can also be a sign of alcoholism, even when people don't do it every day. It's possible that you may have believed some of the more common myths of this type of alcohol consumption. You need to know the facts.
What is the Meaning of Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is the act of consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time.
Binge drinking can also be called by a few other names, and these include:
- Excessive drinking
- Heavy drinking
- Going on a bender
- Drowning your sorrows
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge dinking has a specific definition. They define it as a pattern of drinking that brings a person's BAC level to 0.08 or higher.
The problem with this type of alcohol consumption is that it's quite accepted in the United States. People tend to think that it's harmless because the excessive drinking doesn't happen every day. This is not true at all. Binge drinking is very harmful and extremely dangerous. It can also be an indicator of a much more serious drinking problem.
How Many Drinks is Excessive Drinking?
According to the CDC, excessive drinking in this manor is strictly defined. It involves men who consume 5 or more drinks, or women who consume 4 or more drinks in 2 hours. This type of alcohol consumption will bring blood alcohol concentration levels up to 0.08.
You may not have realized that excessive drinking involved such low levels of alcohol use. Perhaps when you drink, you regularly consume more than this in a short period of time. If so, you're certainly not alone. Many people do.
Heavy Drinking Facts and Statistics
There is probably quite a bit you didn't know about heavy drinking. For instance, did you know that:
- One in six adults in the United States goes on a bender four times a month?
- Each time they do, they consume about eight drinks per time?
- Heavy drinking is the most common among individuals between the ages of 18 and 34?
- Men are much more likely to drink heavily than women?
- Individuals with higher incomes are much more likely to drink heavily than those with lower incomes?
- More than 90% of adults in the U.S. who drink excessively report heavy drinking in the last 30 days?
- For those under age 21, if they drink, they are much more likely to binge on more than one occasion?
These statistics may shock you. They are certainly troubling. However, they also point to a very real problem in our country that is often ignored. Heavy drinking is an issue that has gotten out of control.
When people often think of excessive drinking, they think of college students. While they probably don't realize it, many college students are weekend alcoholics. They have all the classic symptoms. The fact is that college drinking has never been as big a problem as it is right now.
NIAAA tells us that:
- In the last month, 60% of college students between the ages of 18 and 22 drank in the last month.
- Almost 2 out of 3 of them engaged in binge drinking during that time.
- Each year, about 1,825 college students will die from alcohol-related injuries. These include car accidents.
- Every year, close to 700,000 students will be assaulted by another student who has been consuming alcohol.
- 97,000 students have reported alcohol-related date rape or sexual assault.
- Drinking results in serious academic consequences for 1 out of 4 college students.
- 20% of college students currently meet the criteria for being diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder.
- The vast majority of them will never seek treatment, or will wait until they're much older.
It's amazing how many college students drink without any thought to the consequences. This is obviously a behavior that needs to change. College drinking prevention is possible, but
Binge Drinker vs. Alcoholic: Is it Possible to Be Both?
Chronic binge drinking can result in alcoholism. However, that does not mean that everyone who participates in it is an alcoholic.
While there is a difference between binge drinking and alcoholism, some of these individuals are alcoholics.
This can be confusing for someone who drinks excessively, but is worried about becoming dependent upon alcohol. If you regularly drink too much, you could be an alcoholic if you:
- Experience cravings for alcohol
- Have a hard time thinking about anything but alcohol
- Have alcohol withdrawal when it leaves your system
- Frequently find it difficult to stop drinking after just one or two drinks
- Feel guilty after an episode of heavy drinking
In short, it is possible to be both a binge drinker and an alcoholic. Although studies do show that it's not quite as likely.
Are You a Binge Drinker? Look for These Symptoms
If you are a binge drinker, you are actually abusing alcohol. There are certain signs you can look for in your own life to determine if this has become a problem.
Common signs and symptoms of binge drinking include:
- Bouts of nausea and vomiting
- Acute or chronic pancreatitis
- Acute gastritis
- Chronic stomach pain
- Having a higher than normal blood pressure
How Can the Heavy Use of Alcohol Affect Your Mental Health?
Your physical health isn't all you should be concerned about if you're a heavy alcohol user. It can also have a profound effect on your mental health as well. You could be suffering from:
- Frequent mood swings
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Excessive symptoms of depression
- The development of more stress
- Problems interpreting others' emotional expressions
Benders vs. Chronic Alcohol Use
Benders are much different from chronic alcohol use. However, both are very dangerous. Chronic alcohol use is defined as consuming alcohol on a regular basis. For many people, that means drinking every day. Benders are more on a once-in-a-while basis, although they can occur several times a week.
Typically, for those who go on benders, they may drink alcohol excessively on occasion. This is harmful, but not quite as harmful as chronic drinking. Research shows that chronic drinkers are much more likely to suffer from liver problems. They may also have additional health concerns that binge drinkers don't.
Heavy Alcohol Consumption Side Effects
Consuming alcohol heavily is likely to have profound effects on you. These effects may change, depending on how long you participate in this type of drinking. There are both short and long-term effects to drinking heavily.
If you binge for a short period of time, you're likely to experience the effects of it. Most people think of these effects as mild, and they're not concerned with them at all. Bingeing can result in short-term effects such as:
- Feeling drowsy
- Having slurred speech
- Impaired judgment
- Problems with vision and hearing
- An upset stomach
- Painful headaches
The long-term effects of excessive alcohol use are definitely more troubling. For people who binge often, and for longer periods of time, they may experience:
- The risk of alcohol poisoning
- Loss of productivity at work
- Unintentional injuries
- Nerve damage
- Liver disease
- The risk of stroke
- Vitamin B1 deficiency
- Sexual issues
Heavy Alcohol Use and Withdrawal Symptoms
If you drink heavily, you need to know that stopping altogether will have an effect on you. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are very real, and some of them can be dangerous.
For anyone who drinks excessively, they should not stop using alcohol on their own. Usually, a period of alcohol detox is needed in order to guard against dangerous alcohol withdrawal. Some of these symptoms can include:
- Becoming anxious or depressed
- Losing your appetite, and possible weight loss
- Experiencing a fast heart rate
- Tremors in the hands or in other parts of the body
- Delirium tremens, which includes confusion and seizures
Yes, sobriety is possible for anyone who participates in heavy drinking. Although, you should be aware that it's not easy to quit drinking. Alcohol is available almost everywhere. It's quite simple to just go back to using alcohol because you can't handle withdrawal.
If you are an excessive drinker, please know that others have been successful in quitting. Most of the time, they needed professional support in order to accomplish this goal. You have so many options to get help for binge drinking. You don't have to take on this challenge by yourself.
One of the biggest challenges many people face is living with someone who excessively drinks. This might be something you're facing as well. You may have had so many conversations with this individual about his or her drinking problem. However, nothing you say is making any difference. The alcohol use continues.
You're right to be concerned, if this has been your experience. Fortunately, there is more you can do. You may want to consider having an addiction intervention. These meetings have proven to be successful for so many people. In fact, a lot of alcoholics will agree to get treatment directly afterwards.
Know Your Binge Drinking Treatment Options
The first step you should take to quit drinking is to go to alcohol detox. This is so important because it can help you to get through the physical part of recovery. Also, detoxifying your body helps to guard against delirium tremens, which can be fatal.
Once you've detoxed, you'll be ready for rehab. An IOP program is something you may want to consider for alcohol treatment. Going to an IOP program offers you more flexibility, yet it's also intensive.
At The Evergreen at NorthPoint, we know that you're facing a difficult situation. You may have thought you were just having a good time by drinking too much on occasion. You may not have known it was so dangerous. Even so, we can help you recover successfully.