April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a perfect time to educate people on the dangers of alcohol abuse and spread the message that help and hope are possible. Along these lines, we’re taking a look at binge drinking – and how to know when it turns into a problem that needs proper treatment.
First, let’s define binge drinking. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), binge drinking is the consumption of alcohol in a single time frame (typically within a few hours) that raises one’s blood alcohol concentration to a level of 0.80 at least one day a month. For men, this means consuming five or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion at least one day a month. For women, the range is four or more alcoholic beverages. While there is no formal “binge drinking disorder,” this behavior has been linked with an increased risk of alcohol use disorder.
The Link Between Binge Drinking and Alcohol Abuse
There are many reasons that binge drinking is dangerous. For one, this type of heavy alcohol use can cause issues of poor decision-making, bad judgement and loss of emotional control. Binge drinking behaviors often begin in late adolescence or early adulthood and overtime can cause individuals to develop issues with alcohol abuse or alcohol use disorders. In fact, habitual binge drinkers are more likely to have an alcohol use disorder diagnosis than those who do not engage in binge drinking.
Even if your binge drinking doesn’t turn into a dependency or addiction to alcohol, you can experience numerous negative issues linked to binge drinking. This can include poor performance at work or at school or conflicts with friends and family as well as an increased risk of the following:
- Car accidents, legal issues, risky behaviors like unprotected sex
- Damage to the liver (cirrhosis)
- Numerous forms of cancer
- Cardiovascular disorders (high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke)
- Neurological issues (nerve pain, movement disorders, dementia)
- Cognitive issues (problems with memory, attention, problem-solving)
- Mental health issues (anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, psychotic disorders)
Signs of Binge Drinking
The first step in helping yourself or someone you love who is abusing alcohol is to learn to recognize the abuse. Here are some of the signs that a person’s binge drinking is becoming problematic:
- Drinking excessively on weekends or holidays. Binge drinking doesn’t need to be a daily behavior to be dangerous. In fact, someone may use these occasions to justify their alcohol consumption – for example, “I only drink on weekends.”
- Drinking more than intended. If you or someone you love sets out to have one drink and ends up having five or more, this is a red flag. This indicates a built-up tolerance and lack of control with alcohol.
- Experiencing lapses in memory. People who binge drink and drink heavily often experience blackouts when you can’t recall any events during the time spent drinking or fragmentary-memory loss when you can only recall a portion of the events during the drinking period of time.
- An inability to fulfill responsibilities. If you’re frequently unable to show up for work or school after a night of binge drinking, it means that your drinking is now interfering with your daily life and you likely need help.
- Denying that you have a problem. It’s often easier to rationalize your behavior than accept that you might have a problem. If you find yourself getting angry or dismissing the concern of others, you might want to start listening to your loved ones.
Help for Binge Drinking
If your binge drinking is getting out-of-control, there’s no shame in seeking help. Taking the first step on the road to recovery is one of the bravest (and best) things you can do. To learn about our gender-specific program, call today: 866-905-4550.