Binge drinking is the most common pattern of abusive alcohol consumption in the United States.
While binge drinking does not automatically lead to alcohol use disorder, this pattern of alcohol abuse is damaging in many ways.
Each year, SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) publishes data from NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health). According to the data in NSDUH 2020, 50% of over-12s currently drink alcohol. Of those 139 million people, almost 62 million reported binge drinking in the past month, a slight decline from the 66 million people who reported binge drinking in 2019.
Among those who report binge drinking, almost 18 million are classified as heavy drinkers. NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) defines heavy drinking as either of the following scenarios:
- Men consuming 4 or more alcohol beverages daily or consuming 14 or more alcoholic beverages weekly.
- Women consuming 3 or more alcohol beverages daily or consuming 7 or more alcoholic beverages weekly.
Rates of heavy drinking and binge drinking have increased significantly due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic.
What is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is any pattern of alcohol consumption with the underlying goal of becoming rapidly intoxicated.
Not only is binge drinking associated with getting quickly and systematically drunk, but it also frequently accompanies drinking games in a college or social setting.
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) considers binge drinking “a serious public health problem”. Fortunately, it is also entirely preventable.
The standard guidelines for a pattern of alcohol consumption classified as binge drinking are based on the following standard drinks:
- 12oz of beer (5% ABV)
- 5oz of wine (12% ABV)
- 1.5oz of distilled spirits (40% ABV)
CDC defines binge drinking as follows:
- If a man drinks 5 or more alcoholic beverages within 2 hours
- If a woman drinks 4 or more alcoholic beverages within 2 hours
What is Considered Binge Drinking?
To expand upon this basic binge drinking definition, it’s necessary to consider two factors:
- BAC (blood alcohol concentration) levels
- Volume of alcohol consumption
NIAAA classifies binge drinking as any pattern of alcohol consumption that raises blood alcohol concentration levels to 0.08 grams per deciliter.
Is Binge Drinking Alcoholism?
Binge drinking is a damaging pattern of alcohol consumption, but not everyone who participates in binge drinking develops alcoholism, although NIAAA reports that binge drinking can increase the risk of alcohol use disorder developing.
This study shows that 90% of those who reported heavy drinking during the previous month also reported binge drinking.
If you engage in binge drinking sessions and you are concerned about developing alcohol use disorder, ask yourself the following questions concerning your alcohol intake over the previous month and respond honestly:
- Are you spending less time doing things you once enjoyed in favor of drinking?
- Has drinking alcohol caused you any physical or mental health problems?
- Do you spend large amounts of time drinking and recovering from the after-effects?
- Have you found yourself drinking more than you planned or drinking for longer than intended?
- Have you experienced powerful cravings for alcohol?
- Do you engage in reckless behavior after drinking alcohol?
- Has tolerance to alcohol built so you need more to achieve the same effects?
- Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when the effects of alcohol wear off?
- Have you tried and failed to stop or moderate your use of alcohol?
- Does your alcohol consumption create problems at home, work, or school?
- Do you continue to drink alcohol despite these adverse outcomes?
Addiction specialists and healthcare professionals use the above criteria as laid out in DSM-5-TR to diagnose alcohol use disorder (the clinical descriptor for alcoholism) as follows:
- Mild alcohol use disorder: 2 to 3 criteria
- Moderate alcohol use disorder: 4 to 5 criteria
- Severe alcohol use disorder: 6 or more criteria
If your responses to the above questions give you cause for concern, request a diagnosis or referral from your healthcare provider.
Binge Drinking Effects
If you frequently engage in binge drinking, you will expose yourself to multiple negative outcomes.
Any type of alcohol abuse can bring about an array of negative consequences for your physical and mental health. The primary risks include:
- Alcohol poisoning
- Neurological damage
- Liver disease
- Compromised immune system
- Cognitive impairments
- Memory issues
- Mood changes
- Heart attack
- Increased risk of some cancers
- Co-occurring mental health disorders
Additionally, those who indulge in binge drinking sessions are at heightened risk of risky behaviors, such as driving while intoxicated or having unprotected sex.
SAMHSA states that the younger you are at the initiation of binge drinking, the stronger the likelihood you will subsequently become dependent on alcohol.
Binge drinking also exacts a significant financial cost, running into hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
If you recognise patterns of binge drinking in your alcohol intake, what can you do to stop?
Tips on How to Stop Binge Drinking
If you want to cut binge drinking from your life, consider following this simple framework:
- Examine your alcohol intake
- Work out what triggers you to binge drink
- Build and implement healthier coping mechanisms
- Change your environment
- Ask for help from loved ones if you require addiction treatment
1) Examine your alcohol intake
Before you think about eliminating your patterns of binge drinking, ask yourself the following questions to determine the severity of the problem:
- Do you regularly drink alcohol very quickly?
- Do you often drink more than a moderate amount of alcohol daily (more than 2 standard drinks for a man or two standard drinks for a woman)?
- Once you have started drinking, do you find it challenging to stop?
- When you begin binge drinking, do you find it tough to control how much you drink?
- Has tolerance to alcohol formed so you need more to achieve the same effects?
- How often do you drink simply to get intoxicated?
- Do you drink more than you planned or drink for longer than intended?
The more you explore the specifics of your alcohol intake, the more easily you can differentiate between social and moderate drinking or potentially problematic and abusive patterns of drinking like binge drinking.
2) Work out what triggers you to binge drink
By identifying the people, places, or things that trigger you to binge drink, the more readily you can avoid those triggers. You will also learn how to use healthy coping mechanisms instead of alcohol to deal with life’s stressors – more on that directly below.
If you develop alcohol use disorder and require inpatient or outpatient rehab, a therapist will help you to isolate your personal triggers for alcohol abuse.
3) Build and implement healthier coping mechanisms
Stress and boredom often lead to people binge drinking.
There are many healthy ways to deal with emotions like stress or boredom. Exercise is one of the most effective ways to ward off negative emotions while also boosting mood as more dopamine is released in your brain.
4) Change your environment
If you always find yourself engaging in binge drinking sessions, try heading to the movie theater instead of the bar to shatter the routine.
Alternatively, place restrictions on yourself such by only taking enough money for a couple of drinks or limiting the time you spend in the bar.
5) Ask for help from loved ones if you require addiction treatment
By sharing your concerns about binge drinking with your loved ones, you can stay accountable as you try to make changes to your alcohol intake.
If you require more help, ask your friends and family to help you connect with the right alcohol rehab to initiate a sustained recovery. We can help you with that here at California Detox.
Fight Alcoholism at California Detox
At California Detox, we provide the following treatment programs for alcohol use disorder:
- OPs (outpatient programs)
- IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
- PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
- Inpatient programs (residential rehab)
For those with alcoholism and co-occurring mental health disorders, we provide integrated dual diagnosis treatment.
Before you engage with therapy, you must first detox. Our licensed medical detox center will streamline the withdrawal process so it is as safe and comfortable as possible.
All our alcohol use disorder treatment programs draw from a personalized combination of evidence-based therapies along with a variety of holistic therapies. MAT (medication-assisted treatment) is proven effective for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. You will also benefit from individual counseling, group counseling, and psychotherapy like CBT or DBT.
If you are ready to leave abusive patterns of alcohol consumption behind and stop binge drinking, we can help you from detox to discharge and beyond. Call the California Detox team today at 949.390.5377 and get set up at our Laguna Beach rehab.