One out of every six American adults binge drinks at least four times a month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call binge drinking the most common, costly and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the U.S.
Many mistakenly assume that binge drinking is a more innocent form of alcohol consumption than excessive daily drinking. It is sometimes associated with weekend warriors and college students and, while that characterization is true, binge drinking represents a serious threat to public health.
When you understand how to recognize binge drinking, you can take measures to stop it. Let’s look at what the term means, how to identify warning signs and how binge drinking could impact a person’s health.
What is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings a person’s blood-alcohol level above 0.08 percent. This typically happens when men drink five alcoholic beverages and women drink four alcoholic beverages in the span of two hours.
Binge drinkers tend to drink heavily for short periods. This might mean drinking heavily for a night or a week, then spending several days sober. However, a binge drinker might drink and stay sober for longer periods. In some cases, a person might go several weeks without drinking, only to drink excessively for several days or weeks at a time.
Though binge drinking can represent a form of alcohol abuse disorder, it is different from disorders that involve daily drinking. Binge drinkers are typically not physically dependent on alcohol the same way that everyday drinkers are. Even though they aren’t usually alcohol dependent, binge drinkers are still vulnerable to serious health risks.
How to Recognize Binge Drinking – 5 Warning Signs
Left unchecked, occasional excessive drinking turns into frequent binge drinking, which can then turn into alcohol dependency. Recognizing the warning signs of binge drinking could help someone realize they have a problem that must be addressed.
A person might be binge drinking if they…
- Base their entire weekend, vacation or free time around drinking.
- Drink so much that they black out.
- Consume more than four drinks in a single sitting.
- Ignore obligations to accommodate drinking.
- Want to stop drinking but can’t.
If you recognize these warning signs in yourself or in your friends or family members, you should be aware that they could indicate an alcohol use disorder. Once you know how to recognize binge drinking when you see it, you could help yourself or someone else avoid the many negative health risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption.
The Health Risks of Binge Drinking
One of the most common health risks of binge drinking is alcohol poisoning. Because a binge drinker might remain sober for a long period before drinking, their bodies might not be used to excessive amounts of alcohol. A sudden increase in blood alcohol levels puts people at risk for poisoning, which could be fatal.
There are many other risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption. Binge drinking can…
- Increase the risk of cancer and heart disease.
- Cause liver disease.
- Damage the brain.
- Turn into alcohol dependence.
- Make drunk driving more likely.
- Increase the chances that a person engages in risky behaviors.
- Increase the risk of falls.
Binge drinkers face health consequences that can impact them for years to come. In some cases, binge drinkers can also face legal, employment or personal issues from their alcohol consumption.
If You Need Help, It Is Available
Regardless of where you live, you likely have access to programs and addiction treatment centers that can help you conquer binge drinking. At Sober Austin, we provide resources to those looking for group meetings, support groups and addiction treatment centers.
We have connected many Austin residents to the help they need. Whether you’re the loved one of an alcoholic or you struggle with alcohol or substance use disorder, you’ll find many people willing to listen to your story and help you move forward with recovery.