Binge drinking is when a person consumes large quantities of alcohol in a single period. Binge drinking is typically defined as five or more drinks over the period of two hours for men, and four or more drinks over the period of two hours for women. This condition of excessive alcohol consumption in a short period of time can quickly elevate a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to .08 percent or more.
Binge drinking significantly increases a person’s chances of developing more serious alcohol abuse issues. The move from binge drinking to abuse to dependency can happen quickly, resulting in dangerous consequences.
It’s estimated that 80 percent of binge drinkers are not dependent on alcohol. According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Thomas Frieden however, “alcoholism is a very insidious disease in that it can creep up on you if you’re not vigilant.” He also went on to say that “binge drinking, if it’s left unchecked, for a lot of people, could lead to alcoholism.”
There are signs associated with those who binge drink. While there is a definitive line between binge drinking and dependence, binge drinking has the potential to lead to more serious problems with alcohol abuse. Some common signs of binge drinking include the following:
The inability or lack of desire to stop drinking after a couple of drinks can indicate a binge drinking problem. Those accustomed to regularly drinking to the point of drunkenness (even if only on the weekends) could be considered binge drinkers.
Alcohol disrupts brain function and has shown to lead to violent or aggressive behaviour in people who binge drink. Drinking alcohol changes a person’s response system, and things that wouldn’t normally incite anger or aggression can become escalated when a person has moderate to excessive amounts of alcohol in their system.
Drinking excessively after a stressful day or to celebrate the weekend is a common sign of binge drinking. People will sometimes justify drinking because they made it through a rough week or completed a difficult task. Using alcohol in excess as a reward is an indication of binge drinking.
Many people who drink to excess do and say things they normally wouldn’t when sober. The actions a person takes while intoxicated can make them feel guilty the next day when they begin to sober up. People might feel guilty for things they said, embarrassing situations they engaged in, or drinking and driving.
There are several risks associated with binge drinking. These risks can cause health problems and negatively impact a person’s life. Some of the risks of binge drinking include:
While binge drinking involves drinking an excessive amount of alcohol and causes obvious intoxication, people who binge drink are not considered alcohol dependent. Research has shown however, that there is a prevalence of alcohol dependency amongst 10.5 percent of those accustomed to binge drinking.
Binge drinking can cause people to make dangerous choices and lead to several negative health consequences. Alcohol poisoning is the most serious consequence of binge drinking, which can be life-threatening in some situations. Binge drinking also increases a person’s risk of becoming dependent on alcohol.
Excessive amounts of alcohol inhibit brain function and can cause imbalance of chemicals and nutrients in the body and mind. This can lead to depression the days following a night or two of binge drinking. Binge drinking can also lead to making bad decisions while intoxicated, which can cause a person to feel depressed when they sober up.
Making Sense of the Stats on Binge Drinking, US News, 2013
Alcohol, Violence, and Aggression, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism No. 38 October 1997
Most binge drinkers are not actually alcoholics, CBS NEWS November 21, 2014, 2:42 PM