What is Binge Drinking?

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You may hear the term “binge drinking” every now and again, but what does it really mean?

What is the definition of binge drinking?

Well, there are a couple of official definitions floating out there. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), for example, defines binge drinking as:

A pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08g/dl.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), on the other hand, defines binge drinking not by BAC levels but by the number of drinks consumed:

5 or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion.

The two definitions are basically the same. Typically, if a woman consumes 4 alcoholic drinks in two hours, her BAC will be approximately 0.08g/dl. The same would usually be true for a man who consumes 5 alcoholic drinks in the same 2-hour time period.

In a nutshell, binge drinking is the practice of drinking a lot of alcohol at once. And although daily excessive drinking is usually viewed as problematic, binge drinking is often forgiven as a way of “letting off steam.” But the truth is, binge drinking is linked to many health and social problems, even for drinkers who do it only “every now and again.”

Problems associated with binge drinking

1. Unintentional injuries

  • Car crashes
  • Falls
  • Burns
  • Drowning

2. Intentional injuries

  • Sexual assault
  • Domestic violence
  • Firearms injuries

3. Alcohol poisoning

4. Sexually transmitted diseases

5. Blackouts

6. Memory loss

7. Anxiety

8. High blood pressure

9. Stroke

10. Cardiovascular disease

11. Liver disease

12. Neurological damage

13. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders

Binge drinking statistics

  • The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has collected some surprising statistics about binge drinking from national surveys:
  • More than half of the alcohol consumed by adults in the U.S. is in the form of binge drinking
  • 90% of the alcohol consumed by those under 21 is in the form of binge drinks
  • Binge drinking is most common among 18- to 34-year-olds
  • 1 in 6 adults in the U.S. binge drinks 4 times per month (consuming 8 drinks each time)
  • Binge drinkers age 65 and up binge drink 5 to 6 times per month
  • Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers
  • Binge drinking is most common among those with annual family incomes of $75,000 or more

Are binge drinkers alcoholics?

A National Survey on Drug Use and Health concluded that 90% of excessive drinkers do not meet the criteria for alcohol dependence, but that the prevalence of alcohol dependency increases significantly with the frequency of binge drinking. Of those who reported binge drinking once or twice in the past month, 4.3% were found alcohol dependent, whereas of those who reported binge drinking 10 or more times in the past month, 29.8% were found alcohol dependent.

If you need help with binge drinking, contact the Pearson Center

For some people, statistics and warnings are not enough to stop drinking, even when they want to.  However difficult it may seem, it is possible to overcome a drinking problem, and help is available. If you want to stop drinking but feel you need help to do so, please contact us.