Binge Drinking Signs, Effects, and Risks

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Although most people who binge drink are not actually addicted to alcohol, binge drinking is harmful. Below we explore what binge drinking is, who it affects, and what the risks are.

Binge Drinking Definition



The NIAAA defines [1] binge drinking as excessive drinking that brings your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or above very quickly. Typically this means the consumption of five alcoholic drinks within two hours for a man, and four alcoholic drinks within two hours for a woman. The reason it is harmful to drink the abovementioned amount within this timeframe is that your body does not have time to process so much alcohol in a short time.

Although binge drinkers are not necessarily alcohol addicts, binge drinking leads to a much higher risk of alcohol poisoning. It is also associated with serious injuries and disease and a higher chance of developing a dependence on alcohol. Dependence on binge drinking is called a binge drinking disorder.

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Binge Drinking Facts and Figures

Binge drinking is the most common and costly pattern of excessive alcohol use [2] in the United States. Below are some binge drinking statistics.

How Common Is Binge Drinking?

●       One out of six adults engages in binge drinking, with 25% doing so at least weekly.

●       Over 90% of adults who regularly drink report binge drinking excessively.

Who Binge Drinks?

Statistics show us that:

●       More men binge drink than women.

●       Binge drinking is most common among younger adults aged 18 - 34.

●       Binge drinking is most common among those who have higher household incomes.


Binge Drinking Costs

In 2010, excessive drinking including binge drinking, cost the United States $249 billion. These costs included health care expenditures, low work productivity, criminal justice costs and other expenses. Binge drinking accounted for $191 billion, 77% of the total costs.

Why Do People Binge Drink?

We’re bombarded with constant advertisements and video clips that portray drinking as a fun way to spend time with friends. Some teens and adults drink as a social outlet and some drink just for fun.

Some more reasons why teens and adults binge drink:

●       They think it will make them feel good. They don’t realize that it could impair their decision-making abilities and make them sick, hungover and unable to function the next day.

●       They may start drinking to relieve stress not realizing that they might feel more stressed after the alcohol wears off.

●       They’re curious - they want to experience what it’s like to drink alcohol.

What Are the Effects of Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking affects you, your friends, your family and society. While a single incidence of binge drinking does not classify you as an alcoholic, frequent binge drinking can bring you closer to dependence on alcohol.

Your friends and family used to enjoy spending time with you, but the more you use alcohol for entertainment, your friends and family members who don’t enjoy drinking might feel like they have lost you.

If you binge drink frequently, you are more likely to have impaired judgment, increasing your chances of accidents as well as other health risks. 

Some binge drinking effects include:

  • Risk of having a driving under the influence (DUI) accident.
  • Unplanned sexual activity without protection which puts you at risk for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD). 
  • Pregnant mothers who drink excessively can put their fetus at risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) [3] which can cause mental and physical problems for the unborn baby.
  • There is a higher incidence of work accidents among those who operate heavy machinery after binge drinking. 
  • Excessive drinking causes your liver to work overtime. It can also cause dehydration and problems with your kidneys as they work to regulate nutrients in your body. 
  • Alcohol affects your blood sugar levels, which can cause challenges for diabetics.
  • People who drink constantly are at a higher risk of developing various types of cancer. 

These are just some of the binge drinking effects but there are many other avoidable possible effects too.

Binge Drinking vs. Alcoholism

The difference between binge drinking and alcoholism is that someone who engages in binge drinking is not necessarily an alcoholic, and an alcoholic does not necessarily engage in binge drinking.

While binge drinking may be something a person does occasionally, it may not necessarily be a chronic issue. In contrast, alcoholism is a chronic issue denoted by an inability to control one’s drinking, increased tolerance to alcohol, and continued drinking despite negative and dangerous consequences. If you feel that you can’t limit your alcohol intake alone, reach out to us at Avenues Recovery so we can help you create a workable plan to manage your alcohol intake.

Binge Drinking Symptoms

Some binge drinking symptoms include:

●       Memory loss

●       Nausea

●       Vomiting

●       Hangover

●       Impaired decision-making skills

People who binge drink are also at risk for injury and alcohol poisoning which can lead to death.

What Are Alternatives to Binge Drinking?

Many people turn to alcohol when they are feeling down or lonely.

Some healthy alternatives to drinking when feeling down are:

●       Take a walk or jog with a friend

●       Engage in other sports activities for an alcohol-free dopamine rush

●       Read a book or magazine that you enjoy

●       Write your thoughts in a journal to help you to get in touch with your feelings

●      Try meditation, yoga or light stretching exercises


How Can I Engage In Moderate Drinking?

The good news about binge drinking is that tools can be learned to help you modify your drinking so that you may not have to give up drinking entirely.

Here are some tips to help you modify your drinking:

●       Decide in advance which days of the week you want to drink

●       Set a limit as to the number of daily or weekly drinks you’ll have

●       Determine a cut-off time for drinking

●      Find a buddy who can remind you of the goals you set for yourself and help you stick to them

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Treatments for Binge Drinking

Binge drinking disorder happens when a person becomes dependent on binge drinking and they are no longer able to curb their drinking habits on their own. 

Meeting with a therapist trained in alcohol addiction is usually the first step in dealing with binge drinking. Most likely, the therapist will recommend you to stop drinking for several months before you can start drinking again, if at all. 

Support from family and friends is crucial at this time. If you feel that family support and meeting with a therapist are not enough to help you, reach out to us at Avenues Recovery today! Our experienced team can help you create a personalized, workable plan to wean yourself off of binge drinking. Contact us online, or give us a call at 603-505-8365 anytime.

Other helpful resources to assist with alcohol-related issues:
Al-Anon and Alateen [4] – Support groups for friends and relatives of alcoholics.

Alcoholics Anonymous [5] (AA) – Founder of the 12-steps, holds local support meetings worldwide.

Women for Sobriety [6] – Helps women reach recovery from addictions.

SMART Recovery [7] – Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) guides individuals in self-directed growth to achieve sobriety.

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