Binge drinking is a common problem in our society. Binge drinking, which involves uncontrollably drinking, or drinking to the point of intoxication, can be considered a form of alcohol abuse.
Not all binge drinkers are physically dependent on alcohol. However, regular binge drinking often results in physical and mental health problems. These problems can range from simple hangovers to psychological addiction.
In this article we will explain about what binge drinking is, why people choose to binge drink, and how you can stop binge drinking if it’s a problem for you.
What Is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is among the most common forms of alcohol abuse. In fact, the majority of alcohol consumed in the United States is often drunk in a way that could be considered binge drinking. Binge drinking is medically defined as the consumption of alcohol that results in higher than a 0.08% blood alcohol content.
In other words, binge drinking describes men drinking an average of five drinks or women having an average of two drinks within a couple hours.
Certain demographics are more prone to binge drinking. Young adults are especially fond of binge drinking. However, people of all ages — including seniors — are known to binge drink. Just under 20% of American residents binge drink several times per month.
Binge drinking is not the same as alcoholism. However, people who binge drink on a regular basis are certainly at a greater risk of developing an addiction to alcohol.
Causes of Binge Drinking
People binge drink for many different reasons. For some, binge drinking might be a sign of an underlying mental health condition. For others, binge drinking may happen in response to a celebration or event. Here are some common examples of binge drinking.
- Managing anxiety. Many people binge drink because they struggle with some form of anxiety. Social anxiety is a very common problem which people often drink to overcome. However, people can also binge drink in order to overcome panic disorder or generalized anxiety.
- Special events. Many people drink in order to celebrate special events. Prom, weddings, and graduations are all situations that may lead to people drinking more than is healthy.
- Repressing or avoiding emotions. Some people may binge drink in order to overcome or repress difficult emotions. In this case, people may binge drink with friends or alone. Depression, grief, and guilt are common emotions that people often try to avoid by drinking alcohol.
- Alcoholism and previous drinking issues. Some people may get caught in a cycle of binge drinking. Binge drinking often results in a hangover. Drinking more alcohol is one way to minimize the effects of a hangover, which can lead to binges that last days or weeks. People who have chronic alcohol problems may also develop issues with shame and guilt which can spur them to drink more alcohol.
- Unhealthy beliefs regarding alcohol. Many people believe that alcohol is healthy or socially beneficial. While there may be some perceived benefits in the short-term, this can lead to chronic binge drinking which will cause problems.
- Peer pressure. Many people binge drink because of peer pressure. Direct peer pressure — being exposed to people who are verbally encouraging you to drink alcohol — or indirect peer pressure — which occurs when people feel the need to drink simply because their friends or family members are drinking — are both factors.
These are just a few of the situations which may lead to people binge drinking. More specific situations, such as the loss of a loved one, failure at school, or eviction can also create emotional turmoil which may lead to drinking.
Signs and Symptoms of Binge Drinking and Problem Drinking
If you’re not sure whether or not your drinking habits can be classified as binge drinking, then look at this list of symptoms and signs. If these symptoms apply to you then you may have a problem with binge drinking.
- Frequently consuming alcohol. Most people binge drink (having more than 4 or 5 drinks at a time) at some point in their lives. While this does not make binge drinking healthy or responsible, it is not necessarily problematic at this stage. However, if you’re binge drinking on a regular basis, this could indicate problems.
- Making excuses for your drinking. If you find yourself having to explain to friends or family members why you’re drinking as much as you are, this could indicate that you have a problem. This is especially true if you’re making excuses for missing school or work because of your drinking.
- Dangerous or immoral behavior. If you find yourself saying or doing things that you wouldn’t normally do during a binge, this is an indication that you may be reaching the stage of problem drinking.
- Lapses in memory. If you drink to the point of ‘blacking out,’ or being unable to remember your experience, then this is generally an indication of problem drinking.
Risks and Dangers of Binge Drinking
Binge drinking is not healthy behavior. As such, it can create a number of problems. Physical and mental health problems may emerge as a result of chronic binge drinking, and binge drinkers may also experience difficulty in their social or professional life.
Here are some common risks and dangers associated with binge drinking.
- Increased risk of violent injuries. Binge drinkers are more likely to commit violent acts themselves and they are also more likely to get into confrontational situations which may result in their own injuries.
- Increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases or sexual problems, including sexual assault or violence.
- Increased risk of accidental injuries (such as vehicle accidents, falls, and alcohol poisoning)
- Increased risk of physical health problems ranging from high blood pressure to liver disease and cancer
- Problems with short and long-term memory, cognitive difficulties and speech problems
- Increased risk of alcoholism
- Problems with personal relationships
- Emotional instability, acting irrational and difficulties expressing one’s emotions
- Increased risk of missing work or failing to attend school
- Financial problems, either from spending too much money on alcohol or from being unable to regulate spending habits while drunk
Binge Drinking, Alcoholism, or Alcohol Abuse?
Binge drinking and alcoholism often occur side-by-side, however, they are not the same thing. However, binge drinking is certainly a form of alcohol abuse. Many alcoholics also regularly participate in binge drinking.
In its strictest definition, alcoholism is considered to be drinking more than 7 drinks a week (for women) or more than 14 drinks a week (for men).
Alcohol addiction can also be broken down into two categories: psychological addiction and physical addiction.
Not all binge drinkers become physically addicted to alcohol. However, the majority of physically dependent alcoholics regularly engage in binge drinking.
Physical addiction to alcohol is marked by two things: tolerance and dependence. Tolerance occurs when you begin to require increasing amounts of alcohol in order to catch the same buzz.
Dependence occurs when your body becomes so accustomed to alcohol that it stops functioning properly on its own. Alcohol affects a number of key neurotransmitters in the body. When your body has a consistent supply of alcohol, it stops producing these neurotransmitters on its own.
Thus, when you stop drinking alcohol, you will experience withdrawal symptoms as your body struggles to find balance. This is a sure sign of alcohol dependence.
Psychological addiction is a condition in which people believe that they require alcohol in order to function. Many binge drinkers may be psychologically dependent on alcohol, even if they don’t drink on a regular basis.
For example, an introverted individual may not go out to socialize very often. However, if they drink alcohol every time that they go socializing, they may be psychologically addicted to alcohol.
How to Overcome Binge Drinking
There are a few ways that you can overcome your binge drinking problem. These solutions can include rehab, for people with more serious problems. People who aren’t struggling with chronic binge drinking may also be able to beat the problem with a bit of dedication and self-inquiry.
Make a Plan
If you’re interested in overcoming your binge drinking problem, the first step you’ll want to take is making a solid plan. A good way to move this forward is by putting your plan in writing.
- Make a list of all the issues caused by your drinking, as well as all of the reasons that you want to stop drinking. It helps to outline potential consequences that you might experience (alcohol poisoning, car crashes, loss of friends, etc.) even if they haven’t happened yet.
- Decide how you plan to go about doing this. This might involve changing your friend group, finding new hobbies, or figuring out alternatives that can keep you occupied while your friends are drinking.
- Make a point of regularly checking your list, keeping updates of your progress, and making note any time that you have a slip or meet a goal. Make note of any benefits that you experience when you’re not drinking.
- Continue to update this list as you accomplish goals, discover more benefits, and find new solutions that can help keep you away from alcohol.
Figure Out Why You Drink
You may also want to include in your writing some of the reasons that you drink. You can talk about this with people, as well. However, if your primary social group is binge drinkers, you might not be able to make much progress.
Self-inquiry isn’t always easy. You may have to probe deep into your psyche. Figure out what causes you anxiety or why you think that you need alcohol to support your self-expression. You may learn that you have an underlying condition or that an experience from childhood, such as bullying, has colored the way that you interact.
Observe & Change Your Environment
It’s important to be aware of your environment and how it affects you. Many people experience environmental triggers that can cause them to drink. People, places, and situations can all make someone more likely to drink alcohol.
If you notice any recurring patterns or environmental triggers, then it’s your responsibility to change them. Create a life that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable. Surround yourself with supportive, sober people. Avoid going to events that are frequented by people who drink a lot.
There are many groups, events, and activities that don’t focus on drinking as a primary source of entertainment. Find out what activities are available in your area and reach out.]
Build a Good Support Group
One of the most important things for anyone who wants to stop drinking is support. If you’re constantly surrounded by people who drink, it can be hard to find the necessary support. Many people in your drinking group may vocalize their desires to stop drinking, but if they continue to binge drink then they’re not really helping you.
Talk to friends, family members, and other members of your community. Try to build a support group that helps you remain sober. Talk to people about your struggles with alcohol and your desire to stay sober. You’ll be surprised at how many people will also express similar desires.
Using Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) is a support group designed for people who want to stop drinking.
A.A. groups are useful because they allow people to develop connections with other people who struggle with drinking. This ensures that they don’t feel isolated. These groups allow you to remain connected to a social group that shares a similar goal as you.
During A.A., you will be allowed to share your experience with others and listen as others share their experiences. You can learn tips, tricks, and techniques that other people have employed to help battle binge drinking and alcoholism.
If your drinking remains a problem after trying some of these other solutions, then you may want to take a more serious approach. Rehab programs are designed to help people who struggle with addictions of all sorts.
During rehab, you will be guided by a therapist who will help you understand the underlying causes of your drinking. They will help you work through these problems and develop healthy coping mechanisms so that you can function.
Rehab combines all of the different suggestions included in this article. You will be introduced to group meetings and encouraged to develop goals and solutions for your problem. Once completing the program, you should have enough skills to approach life without relying on alcohol.
Binge drinking is a common problem. Most Americans have participated in binge drinking at least once in their life, and many people continue to do so on a regular basis. Unfortunately, binge drinking can cause a number of problems.
If you’re interested in managing your drinking problem, then you should set solid goals and change your environment. If that doesn’t work, you might want to attend a rehab program.