Binge drinking means to drink a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), binge drinking occurs when a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches .08, which is roughly 5 drinks for men and 4 drinks for women in a 2-hour span of time.
In addition to the number of drinks consumed, BAC is also impacted by a person’s metabolic rate, gender, body weight, whether they have food in their stomach, and whether any over the counter, prescription, or illegal drugs are in the body.
In most states, it is illegal for anyone over the age of 21 to drive with a BAC level of 0.08 or higher. For those under 21, driving with a BAC registering anything above 0.00 is breaking the law and subject to penalties.
Binge Drinking Affects More than Just College Students
Binge drinking is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although about 40% of college students report they binge drink, binge drinking isn’t limited to college campuses. In fact, the CDC reports that “more than half of the total binge drinks are consumed by those aged 35 and older.”
While those who binge drink don’t necessarily have an alcohol use disorder, research has shown regular binge drinking can lead to the disorder, especially with younger drinkers. Data from Monitoring the Future, an annual survey of youth in the United States found that “12% of 8th-graders, 22% of 10th-graders, and 29% of 12th-graders report engaging in heavy episodic drinking [binge drinking].” Numerous studies have found those who begin drinking before the age of 15 are 3-4 times more likely than those who begin drinking after age 21 to develop an alcohol use disorder.
One of the greatest risks of binge drinking is the possibility of alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal. Alcohol poisoning occurs when the body is unable to process the high level of alcohol consumed in such a short time, leading to BAC levels becoming toxic. According to the Mayo Clinic, signs of alcohol poisoning may include confusion, vomiting, seizures, extremely slow breathing (less than 8 breaths per minute), irregular breathing (more than 10 seconds between breaths), bluish or pale skin, hypothermia, and unconsciousness. If you suspect alcohol poisoning, immediately call 911.
Do You Binge Drink?
Has excessive alcohol use negatively affected your life? Has it caused problems with your personal relationships, work or school, health, or in other areas of your life? Have you done things under the influence of alcohol that are contrary to your values or moral code? To determine if binge drinking is a problem for you, ask yourself the following questions.
- Do you consume drinks quickly?
- Do you drink to “get drunk”?
- Do you often drink more than you planned or have trouble stopping?
- Do you find it takes more to get the desired effect?
- Do you have black outs or amnesia when drinking?
- Do you participate in risky behavior when drinking, like driving, swimming, fighting, vandalism, or unsafe sex?
Five Ways to Stop Binge Drinking
Binge drinking can be deadly in itself and may lead to an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Take steps to cut down or abstain from alcohol before it seriously impacts your life. Here are five ways for how to stop binge drinking.
1. Make a plan and put it in writing
Write down all the reasons you need to slow down or quit drinking alcohol. Note the possible consequences of continuing destructive behavior, such as alcohol poisoning, motor vehicle accidents, unplanned pregnancy, sexual assault, arrest, financial problems, health problems, and more. Review your list often, especially if you feel tempted to drink. If you’re planning to slow down rather than abstain, keep track of how much you drink, where you are, the people you’re with, and your emotions when drinking in a diary or journal. This will help you better understand your triggers, and to avoid drinking “mindlessly.”
2. Change your environment
Triggers that lead to binge drinking often include places, people, and events. While you’re getting a handle on your drinking behavior, you may need to avoid certain bars, parties, or other activities you know will center around excessive drinking. You may need to avoid spending time with specific people or groups who focus on alcohol for fun. It’s possible you may need to permanently avoid these potential triggers. If you do choose to go to a bar or party, don’t play drinking games like “beer pong,” “quarters,” or any of the numerous drinking games circulating on social media. Games cause you to drink too much, too fast, and you may not realize how much you are consuming. Limit yourself to one drink, or less, an hour, and have a non-alcoholic drink in between those with alcohol.
3. Rely on family and friends for support
Confide in those who support your desire to cut back or abstain from alcohol consumption. Ideally, those in your support system drink little or no alcohol themselves and don’t rely on alcohol to have a good time. They can act as “accountability buddies,” helping you to keep on track with your desire to stop binge drinking. Make sure your support system includes someone you can call at any hour to help you through cravings, triggers, or depression. If you plan to attend an event where alcohol will be present, take a trusted support person with you, as well as non-alcoholic drinks.
4. Abstinence may be your best approach
It may be easier, and more appropriate, for you to abstain from alcohol, rather than attempt to cut down on consumption. This is especially true if you have signs of an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Educate yourself about AUD and binge drinking. Attend a local Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting or other alcohol support group for valuable information. AA meetings are offered in open or closed meeting format. If you think you may have an alcohol use problem, you can attend either format. If you don’t think you have a problem but want to gather information for yourself or another, attend an open meeting. Check out the Alcoholics Anonymous website for information on finding local meetings, online meetings, or international meetings.
5. Ask yourself why you drink excessively
Is it to reduce stress, anxiety, boredom, or other negative feelings, or to feel more at ease socially? Consider seeing a therapist to help you sort out your feelings, and to learn healthier ways to cope. Implement positive lifestyle changes. Commit to regular physical exercise, nutritious eating, participation in interesting sports or hobbies, and attending events that are alcohol-free. Research has shown participating in yoga, mindfulness, inspirational reading, positive self-talk, limiting negative news or TV shows, and spending time with positive thinkers improve self-esteem, mood, and long-term sobriety. If you feel your alcohol use has progressed to a moderate or severe AUD, talk to your doctor about medications that can reduce withdrawal symptoms and help reduce cravings, and for treatment resources.
BlueCrest Recovery Center offers a safe, comfortable, and highly effective outpatient treatment program for those with alcohol use disorder. Combining therapeutic techniques with a unique holistic approach, our highly trained, compassionate staff works with you to heal the mind, body, and health. Contact us today to learn how we can help you or a loved one.