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.

Binge 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 of 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.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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What is an Alcohol Use Disorder?

By David Joel Miller.

How is Alcohol Use Disorder different from Alcoholism?

Alcohol

What is an Alcohol Use disorder?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Used to be a time when doctors treated medical issues, Therapists treated mental illness, Social services treated poverty-related issues and – well – no one exactly wanted to do anything with drug addicts and alcoholics. Times are changing.

Turns out that no matter where you are and who you work with there is a good chance that people around you are being affected by chemicals, alcohol in particular, long before they reach the “alcoholic” or “Chemically Dependent” stage.

In Drug and Alcohol counseling we used to spend a lot of time debating what made you an alcoholic or addict. Turns out the lines are fuzzy. One estimate is that 90% of alcoholics have full-time jobs. Some people do not drink that often. Half the adult U. S. population did not drink in the last thirty days.

Even if you only drink once a year, say for New Years, if you have gotten into fights while drinking, gotten DUI’s several times, then your only drink once a year is not of much import. If when you drink, bad things happen, then you have an Alcohol Use Disorder. The DSM uses the expression “Problematic Pattern of Alcohol Use.”

What we discovered was that it was not so much what you drink or when you drink that matters when it comes to Alcohol Use Disorders, it is what happens when you drink that is significant.

The Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder.

The new DSM-5 has switched to the use of the term “Alcohol Use Disorder” to indicate someone whose use of alcohol is causing them problems whether they are “Alcoholic” or not and lists 11 criteria for Alcohol Use being a problem. Here is my plain language version of those Criteria.

  1. Once you start drinking you drink more than you planned on and/ or keep drinking longer than planned.
  2. You keep trying to cut down on your drinking. In other Alcoholism texts, this is also described as efforts to control your drinking or to quit drinking. See, people do not try to cut down, control or quit drinking unless it is a problem.
  3. Drinking eats up a lot of your time.
  4. You have cravings for alcohol when you are not drinking.
  5. Drinking gets in the way of work, school, home life or recreation. A real Alcoholic cuts out this other stuff so they can concentrate on their drinking.
  6. You know that when you drink bad stuff happens but you keep drinking anyway.
  7. You start cutting out other parts of your life to spend more time drinking.
  8. You try to get away with drinking even when you know it makes the situation dangerous.
  9. You keep drinking even though you now realize it is causing you problems.
  10. Your body starts building up tolerance. (See post “What is Tolerance” in the “What is” section.)
  11. You experience “withdrawal” when you stop drinking and the blood alcohol level starts dropping. (See post “What is Withdrawal” in the “What is” section.)

These problems with Alcohol can come in mild, moderate or severe. Mild Alcohol Use Disorder would have 2-3 of these symptoms, Moderate has 4-5 symptoms and severe has 6 or more.

If you or someone you know is exhibiting these symptoms think about treatment and or self-help groups. The sooner Alcohol Use Disorder gets treated the better the life prognosis. While sooner is better it is never too late to get treatment for an alcohol use disorder as long as you are alive.

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, 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.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Useful information about Alcohol Use and Abuse

Looking for information about Alcohol Use and Abuse?

By David Joel Miller

Alcohol

Alcohol
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Ever hear of the Alcoholism Awareness Council? I hadn’t. Recently I found this site, or more precisely they found me. Looks like a good source for information on alcohol use, alcohol use disorders and what we used to refer to as alcohol abuse and dependence. They publish information, both statistics, and the latest research, in the field of alcohol use and abuse. Lots of links on this site to other sources, both researchers and government publications.

So if you are researching the state of alcohol use in America or working on a paper for a substance use class this site might be helpful.

Oh yes – sure, you can read counselorssoapbox.com also. I will do my best to keep you posted on the latest information in the fields of substance use disorders, mental health, and co-occurring disorders. But when you are not here at counselorssoapbox.com reading this blog, you might also want to check out the resources at Alcoholism Awareness Council           http://www.alcohol.org/

If you do check out the Alcoholism Awareness Council, please let me know what you think.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

What is selective tolerance?

By David Joel Miller.

Not all tolerance is created equal

What is tolerance?

Alcohol

Alcohol

Tolerance, as it applies to medications and drugs, is having less and less of a reaction to a drug the more it is used or having to use increasing amounts of the drug to get the same result. Tolerance, in the sense in which I am using the term here, is the way in which repeated exposures to something produce less and less of a reaction. People get used to things and so does your physical body.

When it comes to substances, whether they are legal, prescribed or street drugs, tolerance is that characteristic of the body to learn to resist things. The body develops an “immunity” or reacts less and less strongly the more times it experiences something.

Over time the drug addict uses more and more of their particular drug of choice. The person taking prescribed medications may also develop a tolerance resulting in needing a larger dose to achieve the same result or eventually they may need to be switched to a different drug.

Tolerance used to be one of the two symptoms that were used to define addiction. Withdrawal was the other one. Because tolerance and withdrawal are characteristics of many substances, not just drugs of abuse, we have had to look at other symptoms to define a problematic use of substances. We now call that problematic use a “substance use disorder.”

What is selective tolerance?

Selective tolerance is those times when someone develops a tolerance to one effect of the drug but not another. The body “selects” one action to develop tolerance to and not another.

A simple example of selective tolerance.

Coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant drug. Many people drink it first thing in the morning to help them wake up and get going. It is also common to find that consuming a caffeinated beverage to late in the evening results in not being able to sleep well that night. It is recommended that you not consume caffeine in the afternoon or evening so that you will get a full night’s sleep.

Have you ever known someone who could drink a lot of coffee or caffeinated soda just before bedtime and still sleep like a rock? Most of us have. That person has “built up a tolerance” to caffeine’s sleep interfering characteristic.

That same person will have some caffeine, probably a lot of it, the next morning and report that the caffeine helps them wake up and get going.

How can this be? Did they develop a tolerance to caffeine or not?

It appears that they have developed a tolerance to one action of the caffeine but not the other. That is the thing we call selective tolerance.

It is quite possible that psychological factors play a role here, but there are lots of other times when someone develops a tolerance to one of a drug’s effects and not another.

There have been some divided opinions on whether drinking coffee is good or bad. My belief is that for most people, most of the time, coffee has more positive than negatives. The choices it up to you.

Could you develop selective tolerance to the effects of alcohol?

The research says that many people do just that. This may be why we see very inconsistent results in research on some of alcohol’s effects. I am not being an apologist for alcohol by saying this, just trying to get the story right. Despite the problems, alcohol causes our society another round of prohibition is unlikely.

My view is that those countries that have a total ban on alcohol often have high levels of problems with another drug. Many countries with a total ban on alcohol have a worse problem than the U. S. does when it comes to Heroin. The solution, such as it is, seems to be better educated on the effects of drugs on the mind and the body. Hence this blog.

Heavy alcohol drinkers develop tolerance to alcohol’s motor coordination effects.

Those who drink a lot find ways to hide the fact that they are under the influence. More concentration on walking straight may keep the drunk out of jail.  Research shows that many heavy drinkers do develop a tolerance to the motor coordination effects.

Heavy drinkers do not develop a tolerance to the bad decision-making effects

One key result of alcohol’s effects on the brain is disinhibiting the drinker. Under the influence, people say and do things that they would not do when sober. One study reported that they found no tolerance developing to alcohol’s disinhibiting effects in heavy drinkers (Miller, M., et al, 2012, no relation to me I know of.)

This study also notes that recent drinking patterns are predictive of tolerance. You do not need to be an alcoholic, a chronic drinker or even a heavy lifetime user of alcohol to show a tolerance to some of its effects.

So we conclude that people do develop selective tolerance to the effects of alcohol and probably most other drugs. Drinking a lot of alcohol is still not a good idea. While your liver may develop tolerance with repeated doses of alcohol, it can also develop Fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis.

Use all medications and drugs with caution and be aware that while you may be developing some tolerance, getting used to using this drug, there are probably other effects the drug is having on your body and your mind that you are unaware of.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Effects of Alcohol last long after you sober up

By David Joel Miller

Alcohol continues to affect you after it has left your bloodstream.

Alcohol

Alcohol

Researchers are finding that the effects of alcohol are not limited to what we see or experience while the alcohol is present in the bloodstream. Those effects continue long after the liver has removed the alcohol from the bloodstream. Here are some of the things researchers are reporting about the effects alcohol leaves behind after it has done its work.

One of these lingering effects increases the risk that alcoholics or those with an alcohol use disorder will drink again.

1. Hangovers impair your driving skills.

One study measured attention, coordination, and vigilance in college students the night after they had consumed enough alcohol to become legally intoxicated. Students were tested one day and then again the next. Some students were instructed to not drink alcohol overnight, others were allowed to drink to intoxication. The following week the groups switched. This allowed comparison of how students did on the various tests after a night of drinking or no drinking.

This study was done in the college dorm to avoid increasing the number of drunk people out on the roads. I did not do this research, just reporting what I read.

The results?

Students who had drunk to intoxication, that would be enough alcohol to reach a point one zero blood alcohol content (.10), were just as impaired the next morning when their blood alcohol content had returned to zero as they had been the night before.

You are just as impaired with a hangover as when you are legally drunk!

Actually, many of the subjects in this experiment were in worse shape with a hangover than when they were legally drunk. Memory, attention, motor coordination even the ability to plan were all significantly affected.

2. Alcohol causes the blood-brain barrier to “leak.”

The purpose of the blood-brain barrier is to keep things out of the head that does not belong there. It also has to let things in that the brain needs. This functioning as the brains border patrol is hard work for that blood-brain barrier. When that Blood Brain Barrier is under attack, under the influence of alcohol, it has trouble doing its job.

One thing that gets kept out of the brain when you have alcohol in your system is glucose. Your brain may only be 2% of your body but it uses 20% of the energy, so a shortage of fuel develops quickly while all those alien Alcohol molecules are storming the brains border.

This is why so many hangover remedies include sweet ingredients. Without energy, the brain can’t work efficiently.

3. Impaired coordination lasts a long time.

At some point, and that precise level is still debatable, high levels of alcohol in the bloodstream alter or damage the part of the brain that controls coordination. Evidence of this comes from several sources.

Chronic alcoholics exhibit unsteady gates even when they have undergone detox and their blood alcohol levels are at zero.

Children born with fetal alcohol syndrome, the most severe form of damage to a child as the result of the mother’s alcohol consumption, exhibit a particular form of uncoordination. When moving their arms they move them much more rapidly when close to the body than when farther away. There is also a decided jerkiness to their arm movements. All of this points to Alcohol causing an impairment in the brain’s ability to regulate motion long after there has been any physical presence of alcohol.

This impairment in coordination lasts into adulthood.

4. Alcohol shrinks the brains size and volume.

The prefrontal lobes of the brain shrink about 11% in those who have abused alcohol over some period of time. Other parts of the brain shrink also, resulting in an expansion of those blood-filled spaces called Lateral Ventricles by as much as 42%.

I have not found a source that quantifies this as to how much alcohol over how long a time this takes to happen. What has been established, at least tentatively, is how much of the damage to the brain can be repaired.

The size of the lateral ventricles seems to shrink with sustained abstinence. The ventricles shrink and the surrounding brain tissue expands and or grows back a little but not all the way.  The damage to the prefrontal lobes does not seem to be repaired.

This results in many people in alcohol recovery having impaired executive functions. They need to learn or relearn planning, scheduling, and decision-making skills.

Combine the changes in the brain with the loss of coordination and the result is 33% to 50% of all those with an alcohol use disorder will have cognitive or motor disorders in addition to difficulty controlling their consumption of alcohol.

5. Alcohol lowers inhibitions long after it has exited the body.

Most of us know that alcohol lowers inhibitions and allows people to do and say things that they would not otherwise do. What has been discovered recently is that a pattern of recent heavy drinking increases that disinhibited behavior. The result is that drinking heavily even if only for a while increases the risk of your making poor decisions even during times when you are not drinking.

One researcher observed that this residual loss of control is one more reason that people with alcohol use disorders are at high risk of drinking again even when they are trying to stay sober.  The brain really has rewired itself and the part of the brain that says “do not do that” is off-line for an extended period of time after a recent episode of heavy drinking.

There are other long-term consequences of drinking alcohol but let’s leave that for a future post.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

What is binge drinking?

By David Joel Miller

Why binge drinking matters.

Binge Drinking

Binge Drinking
Photo courtesy of Flickr (stopalcoholdeaths)

Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that has been linked to a host of physical, mental and behavioral problems.

In the binge drinking pattern, the drinker consumes a large quantity of alcohol on one drinking occasion. Anyone might experience an occasional episode of heavy drinking but with consistently heavy drinkers or binge drinkers, their typical pattern of consumption is that when they drink the get drunk.

The concept of binge drinking relates more to how high the level of alcohol in the bloodstream goes rather than when or how much the drinker consumed over a unit of time.

So if someone chooses to drink a lot one night why is this of any concern to others? Why should it matter to the drinker if their pattern of drinking is a binge drinking pattern? First the concerns and then some more precise definitions of what qualifies as binge drinking.

There are two principle concerns with binge drinking.

1. Alcohol damages the drinker’s brain and body.

The higher the blood alcohol content (BAC) the more damage to the body. Alcohol and its primary breakdown product, Acetaldehyde, are highly toxic to the body. In small amounts, the body can cope with this foreign substance. Above a certain point, there is damage to the body. A single episode of binge drinking is likely to leave minimal long-term damage. Repeated binge drinking will leave more long-term damage.

At high enough levels many substances can cause death. For alcohol, that point is a blood alcohol content around .60 (point six zero.)

Have one drink per day and it may be healthy, or non-harmful anyway. Save those drinks up and consume them all on one night and the damage may be permanent.

Blood alcohol level is also related to repeated head trauma (Winquist et al., 2008.) Long-term high levels of alcohol damages brain cells in the prefrontal cortex which may decrease by 10% or more. Binge drinking also causes cells surrounding the lateral vertices to shrink resulting in an expansion of this fluid-filled cavity in your brain by about 42%. Alcohol and especially heavy or binge drinking cause these cells in your brain to shrink resulting in more empty, blood-filled spaces in the brain (Wolerock, 2009.)

High blood alcohol levels also result in memory loss and the creation of false memories, a process called confabulation.

2. Intoxicated people hurt themselves and others.

At high blood alcohol levels, there is an increased risk of harming self and others. Most places set strict limits on the legal level of alcohol in the bloodstream you may have and still drive. Those limits are admittedly imprecise. Two people with the same blood alcohol content may not be equally impaired, but the higher the level goes for any given individual the more impaired they become.

Increasing blood alcohol levels reduce coordination, lower inhibitions and impair judgment and memory. Intoxicated people, those who have binge drank on this occasion are 55 times more likely to attempt suicide. They are the major source of serious and fatal car accidents. They are more likely to commit crimes and harm others.

There are exceptions, sober people can do bad things, many intoxicated people do not commit crimes, but the higher the blood alcohol content the more the risks.

There is also a severe risk if the person binge drinking is or becomes pregnant. The unborn fetus does not have a developed liver. So mom-to-be needs to have her liver do the alcohol detox for this unborn child. We used to think a drink or two each day was OK. Now we are convinced that any alcohol during pregnancy is a bad idea and binge drinking is especially risky for mom and unborn child.

What is the definition of binge drinking?

Most definitions of Binge drinking are common sense approximations. Using blood alcohol content would be more precise but all that blood drawing is inconvenient.

The definition of binge drinking we use here in the United States is five or more standard drinks for a man, 4 or more for a woman on any particular drinking occasion. This is roughly the amount of alcohol that will make you legally too drunk to drive.

Standard drinks are calculated so that regardless of what you are drinking you can estimate how much alcohol is in your drink.

Despite what many people think, the alcohol in any alcoholic beverage is the same substance, ethanol. So this “I only drink Beer” I can’t have a drinking problem is nonsense. All those other statements about why one beverage is better than others, nothing to do with the alcohol.

When it comes to blood alcohol content, alcohol is alcohol.

In the U. S. a twelve-ounce beer is one standard drink. A four or five-ounce glass of wine is also a standard drink. If you are drinking whiskey, scotch, vodka, etc., then one ounce of a 90 to 100 proof beverage is a standard drink.

No cheating here

People will try to fool themselves. You know that drinking a tall can or 40-ounce beer is not one standard drink. Right? Neither is drinking 151 (a beverage with 75 ½ % alcohol.)

Alcohol content can vary from state to state or country to country. Outside the U. S., tell me the alcohol content of beers is higher. Pouring more beverage in a glass does not let you count it as one standard drink either.

The amount of alcohol it takes to make one person’s blood alcohol content reach .08 or .10 may vary. Some tell me it’s not fair that others can drink a lot and not get arrested for driving drunk and they ended up in jail after only a few. Why this happens is a subject for another blog post.

Binge drinking is not a moral thing.

Some people have argued that telling people to not binge drink is making a moral judgment. They should be able to tie one on if they choose. Choosing to binge drink, drink till you get legally drunk (or illegally drunk if you prefer that term) does not necessarily make you a bad person.

If you drive 60 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour school zone and a child runs out, your braking distance is a lot longer than if you were driving the prescribed 25.  There is more likelihood that you will harm a person’s crossing the street and if you hit them you could mess up the rest of your life also.

Similar case with binge drinking. If you binge drink this can increase the risk that you will damage yourself health-wise or harm others if you drive or are around them. We are just saying there is a warning out on this behavior.

Now if this is your typical pattern of behavior, when you drink you always binge and end up drunk this is a worry. If having developed some problems due to your excessive drinking in the past you continue to binge drink then this is a bigger problem.

If your drinking, binge or otherwise is interfering with your life, consider changing your drinking pattern. If when you try to control your drinking you find you keep losing control, it is time for some professional help.

This blog is largely devoted to the topics of mental health and substance use disorders. Especially those times when people have both issues, which is called co-occurring disorders. Alcohol is one of the top problems in this area. Stay tuned for more on alcohols effect on your body, brain, and your mental health.

Past posts on this topic you may want to look at include:

Dangers of Binge Drinking

Alcohol prevents healing

6 Myths about alcoholism

Blackouts – common or rare?

What is confabulation? Relationship to false memories and Wernicke-Korsakoff’s syndrome 

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

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Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

How are children’s substance abuse problems different from adult addiction?

By David Joel Miller.

No Drugs

No Drugs
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

There are some differences between the substance abuse issues in children from those in adults, but they may be less than we used to think.

There are a lot of people who continue to think of substance abuse, addiction in particular, as an adult disease. That would be way wrong.

Most adults with a substance use disorder began their use at a young age. Seventy-five percent of all disorders, mental health, and substance use, begin before age 24. Half start before age 14.

Kids are getting into drugs and alcohol abuse earlier than most adults realize.

Larger treatment facilities will tell you about children as young as 5 that already are developing signs of alcoholism. Children frequently report that their drug use began as early as age 8.

That’s right folks, as soon as the end of the third grade we are already able to identify children at risk to develop an addiction, going to prison or both.

Are there “Gateway drugs?”

There used to be much discussion of so-called “gateway drugs.” The idea was that up till you tried the gateway drug you were not at risk of becoming addicted. Once you take the gateway drug you are on the path to addiction. The drug that got blamed the most as a “gateway drug” was marijuana. While I think letting your third or fourth grader smoke some of your “”medical marijuana” is a way bad idea, it has turned out that for most adult addicts that was not the gateway drug.

One reason that marijuana was implicated was that it was illegal. That meant that to procure marijuana in the first place you had to be breaking the law. Someone who was selling marijuana illegally and risking jail might also be selling other “harder” drugs. Breaking society’s rules on substance use is a bad direction to start out on, but there is more to the story than that.

For most children, the gateway drugs have been cigarettes and alcohol. Consider the cost to society of a child who starts smoking at an early age. There is good evidence to show that after trying that first cigarette if the child lights up a second one they are going to be smokers for life.

Look around any homeless encampment, any old-time A.A. or N.A. meeting or the public hospital emergency room and you will find a lot of smokers. Nicotine has been reported as more addicting than heroin. I have heard people in recovery from drug addiction say that it was harder for many of them to kick cigarettes than to kick the heroin.

Alcohol is also a severe problem for children.

The younger they start drinking the larger the risk. Some people have argued that there are places in Europe where children begin drinking at a young age and do not develop any higher rate of alcoholism than we do with a legal drinking age of 21. The biggest difference is that in those cultures children learn to drink a small amount with meals and as part of a social occasion.

Here in America, the tradition is that when you drink – drink all you can. These drinking occasions are times when a bunch of people are out to “party” and alcohol is a large part of that. The result is that children, teens, in particular, learn to drink heavily and to drink to get drunk. You do not take your grandparents to the party with you.

Drinking to get drunk, binge drinking is, of course, the riskiest way to drink.

Younger substance abusers go for cheap or easy to get substances. They are more likely to sniff paint or glue. They are also less likely to understand how risky a substance is; hence they go for synthetic drugs because they can get them without breaking a law. What they miss is that these drugs are “not for human consumption” for good reason. Some of these synthetic drugs can cause permanent brain damage.

Back to that gateway argument. It appears that it is not the fact that a drug is illegal, as in the status of marijuana in the past, but the fact that it is “illicit” that the child is sneaking to do something they are not supposed to do, that predisposes them to greater risks down the road.

One thing we miss is the relationship between substance abuse and crime. This is not solely the rule for adults. Children of any age who drink or do other drugs are more likely to do other crimes, behave in anti-social ways and get into trouble.

One report said that on the order of 80% of all those in prison here in California were drunk or high in the 24 hours before they did their crime.

There is no doubt that being under the influence disinhibits you. Drug use also means you need money and that may lead children to do crimes to pay for their drug and alcohol activities. It is hard to keep asking mom for drug money unless she is also in the drug game.

Drinking and drug use may look different in youngsters than in their older compatriots but addiction and alcoholism start in the young and just keep getting worse.

As a colleague of mine keeps reminding us – any drug use by an eight-year-old is a problem.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.