What is Binge Drinking?


By David Joel Miller.

Binge drinking is a huge problem.

Binge Drinking

Binge Drinking
Photo courtesy of Flickr (stopalcoholdeaths)

Some people have one drink after dinner each night. Other people save them up and have all seven on Friday night. Drinking seven drinks on Friday night is not the equivalent of one drink a day. The negative consequences, psychically, mentally and legally, increase rapidly as the blood alcohol content rises on any one drinking occasion, a practice called binge drinking.

Bing drinking is defined as having five or more drinks on one drinking occasion for a man. For a woman, because of her reduced metabolism of alcohol in the stomach, four drinks on one occasion is considered binge drinking. That one “drinking occasion” could be over a short period of time, like drinking shots, or it might entail a more measure drinking like doing in most of a six-pack over the course of the afternoon.

Lots of people resisted the idea that they could be an “alcoholic” because they did not drink every day. The newer way of thinking about this is that it is not what you drink or how often you drink but what happens when you drink that defines an alcohol use disorder. If when you drink you end up drunk or you drink excessively, then you have an alcohol use disorder.

If you only drink occasionally, but when you do drink you consume a lot, you are a binge drinker and at risk for a great many alcohol related problems.

Bing drinking alcohol is associated with increased drug use.

Among drinkers between 12 and 25, those whose typical pattern was to binge drink when they drank, they were also much more likely to use multiple other drugs. This pattern of drug use, called Poly-Substance use, is extra risky and correlates with a lot of complications physically, mentally and legally.

Patterns of drinking can obscure the magnitude of alcohol use problems.

In treatment programs, there has been a tendency to separate the drug users from the people who have legal consequences because they drove drunk. Rarely is a drunk driving case a driving problem despite all our efforts to treat DUI’s as if the problem was the driving after drinking.

There are a lot of misconceptions about who drinks, how often they drink and how much the average American drinks. Half of all Americans have not had a drink in the last month. Ten percent of our population consumes half of all the alcohol. Those who binge drink can hide the existence of an alcohol use disorder for a long time by concentrating that drinking in occasional drinking binges.

Medical problems from Binge drinking.

Binging as well as daily high levels of alcohol consumption are associated with a large number of physical health problems. While one drink a day has been touted as good for everyone but fetuses and potentially pregnant women. Unfortunately the more you drink the more the risks of illness.

Alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of cancers, heart disease, problems of the digestive system, a variety of liver maladies, pancreatitis, and the list goes on and on.

Binge Drinking and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Current thinking is that any amount of drinking on the part of a pregnant woman can affect the fetus. Binge drinking is particularly risky for women who are or may become pregnant. One challenging aspect of this problem is that woman frequently do not know they are pregnant until after some period of time has passed. Women who binge drink are at increased risk to drink heavily, engage in risky sexual behaviors, and then find out that they became pregnant during that period of heavy drinking.

Mental Health overlooks a lot of alcohol and drug related problems.

Those who work in the substance use disorder field see a lot of connections between substance use and mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. Those who focus specifically on the physical or mental health issues are less likely to notice those substance use disorders, especially something like binge drinking.

In drug treatment, those who only use occasionally and even then rarely get into trouble, are at high risk of developing problems eventually if when they use they binge. A small amount of alcohol consumption increases the risk for having problems with depression. Binge drinking even one time a year can result in DUI’s or other legal issues. Even occasional polysubstance abuse can result in life-altering consequences.

If you binge drink there is help available.

If when you drink you binge, or you find you are drinking and using more than intended consider getting help, talking with a professional, before your partying becomes a life altering or ending event.

For more on these topics see:  Drug Use, Abuse and Addiction    Recovery   What is 

Terms and their meaning can differ with the profession using them. The literature from the Rehab or AOD (Alcohol and Other Drug) field may be very different from that in the mental health field. There is still a large gap between recovery programs and AOD professionals and the terms and descriptions used in the DSM.

FYI These “What is” sometimes “What are” posts are my efforts to explain terms commonly used in Mental Health, Clinical Counseling, Substance Use Disorder Counseling, Psychology, Life Coaching and related disciplines in a plain language way. Many are based on the new DSM-5; some of the older posts were based on the DSM-IV-TR, both published by the APA. For the more technical versions please consult the DSM or other appropriate references.

See Recommended Books.     More “What is” posts will be found at “What is.”

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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