Heavy and problematic drinking behaviors take many different forms, but in the United States the most costly and deadly form is binge drinking. Experts say that the prevalence of binge drinking in social situations is considered a public health crisis.
Binge drinking is one form of excessive drinking which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also includes heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or people younger than age 21.
Addiction to alcohol, commonly referred to as alcoholism or alcohol use disorder (AUD) is difficult to diagnose and seeking help can be very intimidating. Many people who do not live with AUD will binge drink, and similarly, many who do live with AUD do not necessarily binge drink. If you are a binge drinker and are concerned about your behavior, hopefully this page will be useful to you.
In this article we are going to address the following questions:
-What is binge drinking?
-How common is binge drinking?
-What are the risks associated with binge drinking?
-Does binge drinking cause depression?
-Does binge drinking make me an alcoholic?
-Where can I get help for my drinking?
What is binge drinking?
Any drinking pattern that results in a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level reaching .08 percent — the legal limit for operate a vehicle — or higher is considered binge drinking. On average, the body can only process one alcoholic beverage per hour. A BAC of at least .08 percent is usually reached for men after consuming five or more drinks over the course of two hours and consuming four or more drinks in the same time period for women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the male binge drinking population is twice the size of the female binge drinking population.
In comparison, moderate drinking is considered two or fewer drinks per day for men, and one or fewer drinks per day for women. Heavy drinking is defined as four or five drinks over the course of 24 hours for women and men respectively.
How common is binge drinking?
The prominence of binge drinking is a big public health concern. Binge drinking occurs across most age demographics including drinkers younger than 21 years. According to a 2015 study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) 5.1 million people between ages 12 and 20 (about 13.4 percent) reported binge drinking within the past month. About one in six American adults binge drinks four times a month, averaging seven drinks per binge.
A recent study by the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU College of Global Public Health found that more than 10 percent of adults over the age of 65 binge drink, putting them at risk for health complications.
For the study 10, 927 adults over the age of 65 reported their drinking habits from the previous 30 days. The report was published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society on July 31, 2019.
According to CDC, excessive drinking cost the United States $249 billion in 2010. “These costs resulted from losses in workplace productivity, health care expenditures, criminal justice costs, and other expenses. Binge drinking was responsible for 77% of these costs, or $191 billion.”
What risks are associated with binge drinking?
Negative consequences of binge drinking include alcohol induced amnesia (or blacking out), injuries, lowered inhibitions and poor decision making which could lead to driving while intoxicated, destroying property, getting into fights or arguments and having unprotected sex.
In the majority of reported incidents of sexual assault, alcohol was consumed by either the perpetrator, victim or both. Binge drinking to the point of blacking out puts you at a much greater risk for being sexually assaulted.
Long term consequences of binge drinking include weight gain, mental health disorders such as depression, pancreatitis and the possible development of type 2 diabetes.
Does binge drinking make me an alcoholic?
While binge drinking is a symptom of alcohol use disorder (AUD), commonly referred to as alcoholism, most people who binge drink don’t have alcohol dependence or an alcohol use disorder. Binge drinking is a risk factor in the development on AUD, and for those who do not develop a dependency on alcohol, binge drinking may still cause them to experience many of the same negative consequences that someone who drinks more heavily or frequently experiences.