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What is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is dangerous. It is a type of excessive alcohol use, which is responsible for about 95,000 deaths across the country every year.4 Almost half (or 46 percent) of these deaths are associated with binge drinking.6
Excessive alcohol use includes both heavy drinking — which refers to consuming at least 8 or 15 alcohol drinks per week for women and men — and binge drinking.
Binge drinking refers to a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings your blood alcohol level (also known as blood alcohol concentration or BAC) to at least 0.08 percent (or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter).6
Although not everyone who binge drinks alcohol has an addiction or alcohol use problem, binge drinking can lead to more serious drinking problems down the line. It can increase your risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is a diagnosable medical condition that happens when someone’s drinking behaviors cause problems and harm their health.5
Binge drinking is never considered safe. It contributes to tens of thousands of deaths every year.
How Many Drinks is Considered Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking looks different for everyone. Typically, men reach a 0.08 BAC with five or more drinks in two hours. For women, it usually takes about four or more drinks in two hours.2 However, various factors affect your BAC.
One in six adults in the United States admits to binge drinking about four times per month, with about seven drinks per binge. This equates to 17 billion binge drinks every single year, or 467 binge drinks per person who binge drinks.2 Moreover, about 66 million (24 percent of people over the age of 12 in the United States) reported binge drinking in the last month.6
Some people are more prone to binge drinking behavior than others. For example, binge drinking is most common among people 18 to 34 years old. And the rate of binge drinking among women is on the rise.6 That said, men are twice as likely to binge drink than women.2
Still, binge drinking happens across all demographics.
Among 12- to 17-year-old preteens and teens, 4.9 percent of people report binge drinking in the past month. Meanwhile, 27.7 percent of 18- to 22-year-olds who are not enrolled in college full-time, and 33 percent of those who are full-time students, report binge drinking in the past month. Over 10 percent of adults ages 65 and up also report binge drinking in the past month.6
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Why Do People Binge Drink?
People binge drink for a lot of reasons. These reasons include, but are not limited to:
- To socialize
- Social or peer pressure
- Having a mental health disorder like depression and anxiety
- To feel the effects of alcohol as an escape mechanism (stress reduction, to numb feelings, etc.)
5 Ways to Stop Binge Drinking
Binge drinking is preventable. Here are five ways to stop binge drinking:
1. Stick to drinking in moderation.
If you are of the legal drinking age (at least 21 years old) and choose to drink alcohol, you should drink in moderation. Drinking in moderation refers to two drinks or less in a day for men and a maximum of one drink in a day for women.3
Moderate alcohol consumption is generally considered safe, unless you are underage, pregnant, or have a health condition.
2. Avoid social events or people who poorly influence you.
If certain social situations drive you to drink more, avoid them. Similarly, if certain people pressure you to drink more, don’t drink with or around them.
If you are someone who has trouble saying no or setting boundaries, remove yourself from these situations and relationships.
3. Do not keep alcohol in your house.
If you have a tendency to drink more than you should, do not keep alcohol within easy reach. For example, you can do this by not storing it in your house. Limited access to alcohol means you won’t be as tempted to drink it.
If you do want to drink, you can purchase just enough to safely drink in moderation at the time.
4. Listen to your body.
Pay attention to how you feel when you are drinking. Notice if you are experiencing the effects of alcohol. And, if so, slow down or stop your alcohol intake.
If you are starting to slur your words or are having trouble balancing, for example, do not reach for another alcoholic drink.
5. Ask for help.
If you find that you are having difficulty quitting binge drinking, reach out for professional help. Quitting binge drinking and other toxic drinking habits is not necessarily easy on your own. And if you continue down this path, alcohol abuse can be dangerous and even deadly.
Quit binge drinking with the help of a professional if you are worried that you are developing an alcohol addiction or have already developed an alcohol addiction.
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What are the Effects & Dangers of Binge Drinking?
Alcohol can take a serious toll on your body, and binge drinking carries a lot of risks. Binge drinkers and people who drink excessively have a larger chance of developing several physical and mental health issues.
People who binge drink are at risk of the following:2
- Getting in a car crash
- Burning themselves
- Getting alcohol poisoning
- Inflicting self-harm
- Perpetuating intimate partnership violence
- Having unprotected and unsafe sex
- Making irresponsible and/or impulsive decisions
Beyond alcohol use disorder, people who binge drink are also at risk of the following health concerns:2
- Chronic diseases like high blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Memory problems
- Learning complications
- Mouth cancer
- Breast cancer
- Throat cancer
- Esophagus cancer
- Liver cancer
- Colon cancer
When is Binge Drinking a Sign of an Alcohol Problem?
Dangerous drinking habits like binge drinking may turn into a more serious alcohol problem like alcohol use disorder over time.
If you can answer yes to any of the following questions, binge drinking may be a sign of a bigger issue:5
- Do you crave alcohol?
- Do you find yourself drinking alone often?
- Do you find yourself drinking alcohol to numb feelings or escape reality?
- Do you have a difficult time cutting back on your alcohol intake?
- Do you have a difficult time quitting binge drinking?
- Does drinking alcohol take precedence over your responsibilities at home, school, or work?
- Do the effects of binge drinking hurt you or your loved ones physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, or any other way?
- Do the effects of binge drinking cause you health problems, a weakened immune system, or other physical negative consequences?
- Have you had alcohol poisoning from binge drinking?
- Do you want to quit binge drinking but keep going back to it?
- Do you engage in violent or dangerous behaviors while binge drinking?
- Are you experiencing social and economic consequences from binge drinking?
- Have you developed an alcohol dependence?
- Do you find the need to drink more to achieve the same effects?
- Does your drinking behavior affect your relationships at home or work?
- Are you experiencing memory and learning impairments from binge drinking?
- Have you been involved in motor vehicle accidents from binge drinking?
- Have you had any injuries or other severe consequences from binge drinking?
- Do you tend to engage in risky sexual behavior while binge drinking?
- Do you easily give in to peer pressure to drink?
How to Help Someone Else Stop Binge Drinking
If you know someone who is binge drinking, you can help. Here are some surefire ways to support them:
- Do not drink alcohol with or around them
- Engage in social activities that do not involve alcohol together
- Do not pressure them to drink or to drink more
- Do not be an enabler by turning a blind eye to their poor drinking behavior
- If you live with them, do not keep alcohol in the house
- Voice your concern about their drinking patterns
- Stage an intervention
- Encourage them to seek professional help
Treatment for Alcohol Misuse & Addiction
If you or someone you know is musing alcohol, professional help is available. Here are some options:
- Inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation centers exist to help you with sustained surveillance, mental health support, and more.
- There are three medications that are approved in the United States to help you stop or reduce drinking and prevent a relapse from happening. These include naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram, which all work differently. Your primary care physician may prescribe one to you.5
- Support groups can help you feel not so alone along your journey to recovery. For example, there is Alcoholics Anonymous, Women for Sobriety, Al-Anon, Alateen, and more.1
- Spiritual practices can assist you by providing healthy coping mechanisms.1 This ranges from yoga practice and meditation to acupuncture and energy healing.
- Behavior treatments can help you unpack the triggers that drive you to drink. This includes cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational-enhancement therapy, marital or couple’s counseling, and family counseling.5
If you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol problem, reach out for professional support before it’s too late.