Binge Drinking

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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.


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If you or a loved one are experiencing negative consequences from bouts of binge drinking but are having trouble controlling your consumption of alcohol, there are many resources available to you.

If you drink alcohol excessively, withdrawal can be dangerous, even deadly. Medical detox from alcohol and other substances such as benzodiazepines and opiates is recommended.

At Amatus Recovery Centers across the country, we offer a full continuum of addiction treatment services.

Detox deals with your physical dependency on alcohol or drugs before you move onto your other treatment services that focus on relieving the mental aspects of substance use disorder. Medical detox treatment varies from center to center in terms of length of stay, and whether or not your detox will be assisted by medication. A full detox should take place over the course of six to eight days.

Inpatient treatment is the most intensive form of substance use treatment, during which you reside in the same facility in where you are treated. Inpatient services typically last anywhere from 30 to 90 days.
Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) and intensive outpatient programs (IOP) do not require you to live in the facility where you receive treatment. In a PHP you will spend no less than four hours a day receiving care in a variety of therapeutic modalities include individual and group counseling sessions. IOP treatment provides similar services, usually no less than three hours per week. IOP is a less intensive than PHP, but more intensive than traditional outpatient services, such as counseling appointments, etc.

Even after the substance use has subsided, stressors, traumas, and even small irritations can trigger the urge to recur drug or alcohol use. For many in recovery, a full continuum of care is recommended, meaning that some form of treatment, usually periodic outpatient appointments to address co-occurring mental health disorders.

Outpatient services along with treatments along with additional support groups help you create a recovery community, a group of people who have faced similar challenges to you and are on a similar path to bettering themselves. More options include attended 12-step recovery meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA).

For more information about Amatus Recovery Centers, contact an admissions specialist at 833 216 3079 and learn which level of care if the right one for you or your loved one.

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