If the title of this article grabbed your attention, chances are you suspect you or a loved one might be a “binge drinker.” But what defines binge drinking? And even if we understand what qualifies as binge drinking, does it mean you have a serious drinking problem? Does it mean you’re an alcoholic?
The definition of binge drinking is not black and white: “I drink three drinks every day, hence I meet the definition of an alcoholic,” or “I only drink on the weekends (albeit heavy binge drinking resulting in embarrassing behavior and monster hangovers), hence I do not meet the criteria of an alcoholic.” If it were only that easy.
What Constitutes Binge Drinking?
“Am I a binge drinker?” you ask. Binge drinking can have different definitions – more than 5 drinks is a 2-hour period for a man, more than 4 drinks in a two-hour period for a woman, for example – but the characteristics of all definitions are very similar:
- Consistent or irregular over-drinking
- Drinking quickly, similar to a chain smoker
- Starting drinking and not stopping until you are very drunk, pass out or fall asleep
- Experiencing strong hangovers
- Drinking to get drunk
- Doing embarrassing things you regret while drinking too much
- Alienating your friends because of your drinking
- Being involved in accidents because of too much drinking
- Taking days off of work because of “heavy partying”
- Increased bouts of depression or mood swings
What are the Effects of Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking invariably leads to getting heavily intoxicated or drunk. Getting drunk can affect both your short-term and long-term physical and mental health:
Short-term Effects –
- Binge drinking increased alcohol in your blood quickly, affecting your judgment, balance and decision-making
- Alcohol is the most common foreign substance found in the body of those involved in car accidents, and alcohol is involved in at least 50% of fatal accidents. The number one killer of young adults is car accidents where alcohol is involved
- The risk of injury from a car accident increases by 100% after one drink. After four or more drinks – a typical binge drinking episode – someone is eleven times more likely to be injured in a car accident
- Binge drinkers have a higher risk of dying from over-consumption. Over-consuming alcohol can stop your breathing, stop your heart, or you could choke on your vomit. Younger people who abuse alcohol are especially at risk of overdosing. Inexperience and peer pressure can be a fatal combination for younger drinkers. Alcohol-related deaths can result from just one instance of binge drinking or from prolonged alcohol “poisoning” in the bloodstream
- Binge drinking leads to intoxication which can be damaging to personal and professional relationships
- Binge drinking can affect your memory, create wide mood swings and can contribute to or exacerbate serious mental health problems over time
- Heavy drinking over time can cause permanent damage to many organs and systems in the body. Serious consequences include gastro-intestinal bleeding, pancreatitis, esophageal tearing from vomiting, liver damage and anemia
- Five percent of alcoholics experience delirium tremens. These are acute withdrawal symptoms after an alcoholic has not had a drink for several days, similar to certain binge drinking patterns. The alcoholic experiences extreme delirium and disorientation which can, in some cases, can result in death
- Alcoholics are at higher risk of severe complications after surgeries. Their recovery rates are much slower than the non-alcoholic and they have a higher likelihood of developing infections because of their stressed immune system
Where can you get help with binge drinking?
If you are concerned you or a loved one may be binge drinking, you are not alone. Recent studies indicate as many as 24% of college-aged men are involved in some form of binge drinking. For young women, it can be as high at 17%. A family history of alcohol abuse, and the easy accessibility of alcohol can increase the likelihood of binge drinking.
It is important to gain control over your drinking as soon as possible to avoid long-term health and relationship damage. Alcoholics Anonymous created an environment many decades ago that destigmatized alcoholism. It remains a good place to gain information and an excellent organization to maintain recovery. But for many, an initial intensive detox and therapy – usually 4-8 weeks – is required to truly cleanse the body and begin the personal life choice changes required for long-term dominion over alcohol.
If you or a loved one need help, do your research, call treatment facilities and determine what program will be most beneficial for you. Insurance often covers the majority of treatment. Do it now and reap the benefits for a lifetime.
If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to alcohol, or are addicted to other substances like cocaine, heroin or prescription drugs, please call Covenant Hill Treatment Center today at 888.758.9677. This is a free helpline available 24/7. Covenant Hills is one of the leading addiction treatment centers in the United States with both men’s and women’s facilities in Orange County, California and San Antonio, Texas.