What is the Definition of Binge Drinking?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is defined as “a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or higher.” For most women, this pattern of alcohol abuse corresponds to drinking four or more drinks in two hours. For men, it’s five or more alcoholic drinks in two hours. Studies show that fewer drinks in the same timeframe results in the same blood alcohol concentration in youth with only three drinks for girls and three-to-five drinks for boys, depending on their age and size. The effects of binge drinking in adolescence can impact the brain development of youth. Research shows that repeated binge drinking during the teen years can alter brain development and cause lingering deficits in social, attention, memory, and other cognitive functions.
Research from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) shows that binge drinking is the most common and costly pattern of excessive drinking in the U.S. While most people who binge drink are not dependent on alcohol, binge drinking is associated with serious injuries and diseases, as well as a higher risk of alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) occurs when individuals continue to drink despite any physical, emotional, or social consequences. You may have an alcohol use disorder if you meet at least two of the following criteria:
- You spend a lot of time drinking or recovering from drinking
- You drink more than what you mean to
- You have a hard time thinking of anything else but drinking
- Your drinking has put your safety at risk more than once (for example, driving while drunk)
- You have tried to cut back on drinking but you’re unable
- Drinking interferes with your daily activities, including work or family time
- You keep drinking even though it’s caused problems with loved ones
- You’ve sacrificed hobbies or meaningful projects because they competed with your drinking
- Even when drinking makes you feel depressed or anxious, you continue to drink
- You drink more than you used to in order to feel the buzz
- You get withdrawal symptoms when the effects of binge drinking alcohol wear off
Studies show that 5.6 percent of Americans live with an alcohol use disorder. Additionally, you’re five times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder if you started drinking before the age of 15 years old. When it comes to binge drinking, about one in six American adults binge drink and among those who do, one in four do so on a weekly basis.
How Common Is Binge Drinking?
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that approximately 66 million Americans aged 12 years old and up reported binge drinking in the past month. While binge drinking impacts individuals of all age groups, there are important trends in preteens and teens, young adults, older adults, and women.
- Preteens and teens: across the last decade, rates of binge drinking among 12- to 17-year-olds have decreased. However, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 5 percent of people in this age group reported binge drinking in the past month
- Young adults: rates of binge drinking among those ages 18- to 22 years old have also decreased in the past decade. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported nearly 30 percent of young adults who are not enrolled in college full-time and 33 percent of full-time college students reported binge drinking in the past month
- Older adults: binge drinking rates have increased for older adults. In fact, more than 10 percent of adults aged 65 years and older reported binge drinking in the past month. The increase in this age group is a concern because many older adults also take medications that can interact with alcohol, have health conditions that can be exacerbated by alcohol, and may be more likely to suffer from alcohol-related falls and other accidental injuries
- Women: the number of women who engage in binge drinking has also increased over the last decade. Studies show that among American women who drink, approximately one in four have engaged in binge drinking in the past month, with an average of about three binge episodes per month and five drinks per binge episode
Who Is Most Likely to Binge Drink?
Furthermore, studies show that binge drinking is most common among younger adults aged 18 to 34 and is also more common in men than women. Studies show that Americans who have a higher household income are also more likely to binge drink.
The percentage of people who have engaged in binge drinking in the past month varies among young adults, with men more likely than women to engage in binge drinking. The most common age at which individuals first begin binge drinking is between 14 and 17 years old.
People often binge drink because they like the effect it has on them, specifically that it causes them to become relaxed and happy fast. The problem is that this effect is only temporary, so people drink more and more alcohol in order to maintain their buzz. Eventually, though, the body and brain both become accustomed to this level of drinking and need more and more to get the same feeling. Sometimes people say that binge drinkers have no control over their actions, but binge drinking often occurs when an individual does not think about the negative consequences their actions may bring.
What are the Short-Term Effects of Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking or heavy episodic drinking, sometimes called drunkenness or overdrinking, has harmful effects on health. While many social, emotional, and other problems associated with binge drinking are long-term, there are also immediate effects. People who typically drink heavily experience many short-term health effects, such as liver damage and high blood pressure. Binge drinking is dangerous to your health, especially if you’re drinking more than five drinks in one sitting. Here are some short-term effects of binge drinking:
- Alcohol poisoning and wet brain
- Dangers to the fetus in pregnant women, including miscarriage, stillbirth, or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
- Injuries including vehicle crashes fall, drownings, or burns
- Risky sexual behavior such as unprotected sex could lead to sexually transmitted infections, HIV, or unintended pregnancy
- Violent or suicidal behaviors
- Memory loss
- Lack of coordination
Research shows that alcohol affects almost all tissues in the body. According to research data, even one episode of binge drinking can compromise immune system function and lead to acute pancreatitis in individuals with underlying pancreatic damage.
Additionally, the short-term effects of binge drinking can include legal problems. Drinking can also harm your health in general including liver damage, causing high blood pressure, increasing your risk for certain cancers, such as breast cancer, and reducing the effectiveness of medications you may be taking by affecting how they’re processed in your body. Alcohol can even affect how we sleep by reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep during the first part of your sleep cycle. Other short-term effects of binge drinking can include impaired judgment, slow reaction time, blackouts, memory loss, and possible death.
Binge drinking may be a more efficient way to consume alcohol than drinking an entire bottle of liquor over several hours, but binge drinkers can still experience consequences. Alcohol poisoning is a serious risk and can lead to liver failure if left untreated. It’s also possible for binge drinkers to get so drunk that they vomit and choke on their own vomit, which can cause permanent damage or even death. In addition, the body burns through calories much faster when someone drinks alcohol, and the calories consumed are often replaced with sugar foods to avoid becoming ill from being too inebriated. This pattern can lead to weight gain and loss of muscle tone.
What are the Long-Term Effects of Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking isn’t just an occasional indulgence – it’s a habit that can cause serious problems, from minor health issues to life-threatening injuries like brain bleeds or seizures. According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), binge drinking can lead to a wide range of health problems, like liver disease. Binge drinking research shows that it causes long-term damage to multiple organ systems. Most people think of alcohol as a harmless social lubricant or as a medicine to relieve anxiety. However, binge drinking can cause long-term harm. Binge drinking has many long-term effects on your health and well-being, including:
- Alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction
- Mental disorders like anxiety or depression
- Cancers of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon
- Digestive problems
- Family problems
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Liver disease
- Lowered productivity and workplace issues
- Memory and learning problems
- Weakened immune system
Binge drinking is a common problem among Americans. While some believe that binge drinking alone is not dangerous, alcohol contains toxic chemicals which can affect the brain cells and make one feel intoxicated. Over the long term, binge drinking can severely damage the heart, liver, and pancreas, causing heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Binge drinking can also cause permanent damage to vital organs like your brain, leading to memory loss.
Binge drinking is dangerous for your health. Studies show that binge drinkers are at an increased risk for serious medical conditions, including heart disease, liver failure, and other disorders. Binge drinkers also increase the risk of injuries from falls and car accidents, sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancies. The severity of these negative effects increases with frequent binge drinking.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 95,000 deaths resulted from alcohol misuse in the U.S. between 2011 and 2015, and nearly half were associated with binge drinking. Researchers estimate that binge drinking accounts for 77 percent of the $249 billion economic cost of alcohol misuse in 2010.
How to Get Help with Binge Drinking
It can be tough to seek help for binge drinking. If you’re not sure if you or a loved one needs help with binge drinking, check out these signs:
- You go out every weekend
- You’re tired and irritable after a night out
- You set limits on how much to drink but consistently fail to meet them
- You black out frequently
- Your lessened inhibitions bring about embarrassing behaviors
- You spend an inordinate amount of time feeling guilty for or worrying about drinking so much
- You’re experiencing health problems from drinking
- You always binge drink
- Friends, family, and other loved ones are worried about your drinking
- You experience professional or legal issues because of your drinking
If you can relate to these signs of binge drinking, it may be time to seek help. Consider the following ways to stop binge drinking:
- Change your environment. Think about where, when, and with whom you spend most of your time binge drinking. It can be difficult to stop binge drinking if you’re constantly surrounded by it
- Weigh the pros and cons. Keep a list of the reasons why you want to stop binge drinking as a constant reminder
- Reward your accomplishments. Use positive reinforcement to reach your goal
- Enlist family and friends. Social support can help you quit or cut down on your binge drinking. Plus, friends and family can provide praise and other rewards when you do well in your goals
- Consider abstinence. For some people, quitting alcohol altogether is more manageable than drinking occasionally. Self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can help members abstain from alcohol use. Plus, alcohol rehab programs can also help you reach your abstinence goals
- Set limits. If abstaining altogether doesn’t feel right to you, try setting a limit on how much you drink. Perhaps you reduce the amount you drink or only drink on certain days or during certain hours
- Find alternative, healthier ways to cope. Many binge drinkers use alcohol to cope with negative feelings like stress, depression, anxiety, and boredom. Instead, replace alcohol with healthier options, including exercise, self-care, sports, hobbies, and connecting with others
- Attend a detox program. You may experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop binge drinking behaviors. In that case, attend a detox program to receive help in managing withdrawal symptoms like seizures, hallucinations, confusion, and death. Detoxing under the supervision of medical professionals allows for withdrawal symptoms to be closely monitored and managed through medication, if necessary
- Consider medication. Depending on the individual and their needs, doctors may prescribe medications to ease withdrawal symptoms and manage cravings. Speak to your doctor to find out if medication is a good treatment option for you
How Can I Stop Binge Drinking?
The most effective way to recover from the effects of binge drinking is to join alcohol rehab at a recovery center. Rehab can help people who binge drink because it allows users to understand how their brain works, what triggers their addiction, and how to manage stress or a difficult situation. Alcohol rehab can also teach individuals about the process of recovery, establishing healthy patterns, and creating a support network that will be there for them when they need it most. Rehab will also be able to help with drug dependency, addiction, depression, anxiety, and other issues you may be experiencing. Additionally, patients can undergo detox at rehab. Medical detox programs can help individuals who struggle with binge drinking overcome alcohol abuse by enabling them to stop drinking safely and comfortably so they’re not abusing their bodies while undergoing treatment at an inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment program.
TruPath is Ready to Treat Alcohol Abuse, Addiction, and Achieve Long-Term Sobriety
If you or a loved one struggles with the effects of binge drinking, consider seeking addiction treatment from TruPath Recovery. TruPath Recovery’s binge drinking treatment program was designed to provide patients with the support, tools, and strategies they need to overcome their binge drinking problem. At TruPath Recovery, addiction professionals will work with each individual to develop a customized approach that’s based on the individual’s specific issues, needs, and goals. Here at TruPath, you’ll have the chance to find your own path to recovery within an environment of acceptance and respect.
TruPath Recovery has programs specific to helping people with alcohol addiction. The program provides an affordable treatment option for clients and has a very high success rate. Within the program, there are multiple treatment approaches used, including 12-step support groups, individual and group counseling sessions, educational workshops, family therapy, experiential therapy components, individualized relapse prevention planning, and motivational interviewing. Start your journey to recovery at TruPath Recovery.