Updated on February 6, 2024
6 min read

What Is Binge Drinking?

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is a pattern of excessive alcohol use, drinking to the point where your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches .08 grams or higher within two hours or less.1

Reaching a high BAC can occur when you drink five or more drinks for men and four or more for women.2 Although it doesn’t necessarily lead to an alcohol use disorder (AUD), binge drinking can indicate an alcohol problem.

Even if you don’t have a drinking problem, consuming many alcoholic beverages quickly can negatively affect your health.2

Who Binge Drinks?

Alcohol binges are more common among adults aged 18 to 34. However, it is twice as common among men than women.

Here are some binge drinking statistics:2,4

  • 4 in 5 total binge drinks are consumed by men
  • 1 in 6 adults binge drinks as often as four times a month
  • People under 21 tend to binge drink alcohol

Underage drinking can increase the risk of alcoholism over time. It can also negatively impact your brain, leading to cognitive and mental health issues over time.2

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What Exactly is Binge Drinking and Why is it Dangerous?
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Risks of Binge Drinking

As common as binge drinking might be, it poses serious risks.

Binge drinking increases the risk of:

  • Vehicle accidents
  • Unintentional injuries from falls, burns, and other causes
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • “Blackouts”
  • Hangovers
  • Poor decision making
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Violence and sexual assault
  • Unintended pregnancy
  • Miscarriage and stillbirth
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Alcohol dependence

Health Consequences of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking and heavy drinking increase a person’s risk of developing long-term medical problems, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Renal issues
  • Weakened immunity
  • Pancreatitis
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Liver disease
  • Cirrhosis
  • Stroke
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Depression
  • Menstrual problems in women
  • Infertility in men
  • Memory problems
  • Mental health issues, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression
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Is Binge Drinking Considered Alcoholism?

Not all binge drinkers are alcoholics, but the behavior increases a person’s risk of developing alcohol addiction. Studies have shown people who binge drink at a young age are three times more likely to develop alcoholism, or AUD, as adults.

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Why Do People Binge Drink?

Everyone is different, and it’s impossible to list why someone might binge drink. Some of the most common causes of binge drinking include:

Fun and Celebrations

Alcoholic drinks lower social inhibitions and often occur at parties where people want to let loose and forget their troubles. People often binge drink at parties or for stress relief.

Social Anxiety

People who are usually too shy or lack the confidence to socialize tend to feel better when drinking. Drinking can temporarily make you feel: 

  • Stronger
  • Sexier
  • More confident
  • More sociable

Admiration or Attention

Consuming large quantities of alcohol, especially for men, might result in admiration from friends. This is especially true for younger drinkers.

An Escape from Problems

Some people binge drink as a way to forget their problems. People who binge drink to escape life’s challenges are especially susceptible to developing alcohol addiction.

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is one of the most common reasons why people overdrink, especially when they’re young or inexperienced drinkers. 

A Sense of Independence

Young drinkers tend to use alcohol to break the rules or assert their independence from their parents. This is one of the reasons binge drinking is so common on college campuses. 

Kids are experiencing their life away from their parents for the first time. They’ll want to experience life without their parents’ restrictions.

7 Ways to Stop Binge Drinking

There are things you can do to avoid binge drinking or stop altogether. However, not every strategy will work for you, so you’ll have to understand what causes you to binge drink.

Understanding your drinking habits can help determine which strategy is best for you. Consider talking to loved ones or a healthcare professional about your drinking problem.

Things you can do to reduce the temptation to binge drink include:

1. Avoid Places that Involve Alcohol

There are plenty of places and social situations that can involve alcohol. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Liquor stores
  • Bars
  • Restaurants
  • Parties

Avoid these places and situations until you feel your drinking is under control. It might help to not drink for a while or limit yourself to one drink per week.

2. Stay Motivated 

It can be hard to stop if you frequently drink or binge drink. You might even end up drinking a few drinks from time to time. However, you shouldn’t give up.

It’s important to stay motivated about stopping. Don’t let a few slip-ups stop you from reaching your goals. Consider talking to a support group to keep yourself motivated. 

3. Frequently Remind Yourself Why You Want to Stop

If you want to stop binge drinking, remind yourself why you want to stop in the first place. There are a plethora of reasons why you’d want to stop; some examples include:

  • Improving your health
  • To avoid hurting loved ones
  • To avoid hurting yourself
  • Avoiding long-term health consequences

List why you want to avoid binge drinking and keep it close to you. You can refer to it when you’re tempted to drink.

4. Reward Yourself When You Don’t Drink

Make sure you credit yourself for your accomplishments and find ways to enjoy life without alcohol. You can consider going on a vacation or buying something nice for yourself.

However, you don’t need to reward yourself with something big. It can involve small things like:

  • A token or trinket
  • Eating your favorite meals
  • Spending a nice day with loved ones
  • Enjoying your hobbies

5. Ask for Support 

Being vulnerable about your drinking can be uncomfortable, but you’re more likely to succeed with support. You can ask for support from friends or family.

They can listen to your struggles and help you stay sober. They can also help keep you accountable when you slip up.

6. Consider Therapy

It’s common for people to use alcohol to cope with mental health issues, such as: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress 

Working with a counselor can help you identify your binge triggers and find healthier ways to deal with your negative feelings.

7. Taper Your Alcohol Use

Quitting outright can be hard for some people, so consider tapering alcohol use. Start by lessening the amount you drink. Continue limiting your drinking until you have it under control.

Tapering your alcohol use can take longer to stop drinking, but it might be better long-term. Consider talking to a healthcare professional for a successful taper.

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Treatment Options for Binge Drinking

Avoiding alcohol when you tend to binge is challenging because heavy alcohol use is accepted in today’s society. However, there are resources available for those who need support.

If you suspect your binge drinking is leading to alcohol addiction, consider seeking treatment. Available treatment options for alcohol addiction include:

  • Inpatient rehabilitation: Involves checking yourself into a rehab facility for 24-hour medical supervision 
  • Outpatient rehabilitation: A treatment program where people are freely allowed to leave the rehab facility
  • Support groups: Provides a much-needed community to help maintain sobriety after treatment
  • 12-step programs: A support group designed to help guide you through the recovery process and maintain sobriety

Summary

Binge drinking can be described as drinking too much alcohol in a short time. Although people commonly binge drink at ages 18-34, it can happen at any age.

There are various ways to stop binge drinking. However, some strategies might not work for you. Consider understanding your drinking habits or talking to a healthcare professional to find the best strategy for you.

Although binge drinking is not necessarily a sign of AUD, it can indicate an alcohol problem. Fortunately, resources and treatment options are available to help you recover from addiction.

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Updated on February 6, 2024

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