What Is Binge Drinking and Why Is It a Problem?
Binge drinking is a common form of alcohol abuse, and for some individuals and their families, it can be a serious and dangerous activity. However, there is some confusion as to what binge drinking actually consists of. To put it simply, binge drinking is the consumption of an excessive number of alcoholic beverages, usually assumed to be more than five, in order to obtain a state of intoxication. Some alcohol users only refer to alcohol use as a “binge” if it’s carried out over the course of several days. This type of binge drinking can be extremely dangerous and can lead to:
- Alcohol poisoning
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- A physical dependency on alcohol
Binge drinking may occur when a person is trying to fit in with friends, deal with stress, or after a major life event. It can be alarming to notice a friend or family member binge drinking, so if you’ve noticed this type of activity or if you binge drink regularly, it may be time to look for alcohol abuse treatment to stop this potentially dangerous behavior.
When Binge Drinking Becomes Alcoholism
Binge drinking is very much related to alcoholism, but the presence of binge drinking doesn’t necessarily mean that a person has a severe alcohol addiction. The binge drinker may simply have unsafe drinking habits.
However, as alcoholism is a serious disease and alcohol abuse can damage the body even in a single binge drinking session, it’s best to recognize the signs of dependency. A person who is alcohol dependent may experience “shakes,” chills, and other physical symptoms. Alcoholics will also allow their habit to begin interfering with their families, careers, and other aspects of their day-to-day lives. Binge drinking will become regular, and binges may be extreme. Many alcoholics begin to develop a tolerance. This causes them to engage in more and more serious binge drinking sessions with greater consequences to their bodies and lives.
All binge drinking is best avoided, but binge drinking can become alcoholism when it occurs on any sort of a regular basis. It’s also important to note that there’s no “right” age to binge drink. While binging may be more common among certain social groups, for instance younger males, it’s dangerous and can lead to addiction at any age, so it’s important to seek treatment.
Treatment for regular binge drinking will focus on finding the reasons for binging and treating them, including stress and psychological or emotional issues. Inpatient and outpatient care are both available for binge drinkers depending on the severity of the habit, but ongoing treatment is usually recommended.
Moderate Alcohol Use: Common Misconceptions
Because drinking is a very socially acceptable behavior, many people don’t recognize binge drinking as a dangerous activity. They may even confuse binge drinking with moderate alcohol use, but anything over two drinks a day can be considered problematic, depending on the weight, age, and habits of the individual. A person drinking more than 14 drinks per week may be binge drinking; again, dependent on a number of circumstances.
If you believe that you’ve recognized the signs of binge drinking in yourself or a loved one, find a therapist who has a history of working with addiction or contact an organization that specializes in alcohol abuse (such as Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA). An addiction specialist can help you to recognize the signs of problematic drinking and can give you the necessary tools to approach a family member or to seek treatment for yourself.