While overindulging in alcohol is the culprit behind nearly 80,000 deaths in the United States per year, most people don’t see their binge drinking as a cause for concern because it’s not a daily occurrence. They believe that since they are drinking less frequently, they experience fewer risks.
It is these misguided thought processes that have led more than 38 million adults in the U.S. to binge drink as often as four times a month. Although it may look like typical behavior on the surface, binge drinking can quickly spiral out of control if not carefully monitored.
Binge Drinking Defined
Binge drinking is a practice of consuming large quantities of alcohol in a single session and usually, within a short period of time. Most people that participate in binge drinking do so with the intent to get drunk.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), it is typically considered binge drinking when men consume five or more drinks or when women consume four or more drinks in the span of two hours or less. Consuming this volume of alcohol will cause a person’s blood alcohol concentration levels to rise above the legal limit of 0.08.
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The NIAA also notes that binge drinking is among the most common, costly and deadly forms of excessive alcohol consumption.
Binge Drinking In Teens And Young Adults
According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), more than 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by those ages 12 to 20 years old is done in the form of binge drinking. This statistic might sound startling, but there are many reasons that binge drinking is so heavily concentrated in this age group.
As children move from adolescence to young adulthood, they begin to desire more independence from their parents and crave new freedoms. As a result, they start to experiment with alcohol and binge drinking.
Since so many young adults are participating in binge drinking, they often don’t see a problem with it. It’s becoming socially acceptable for teens to binge drink while out with friends, and since they’re not doing it every night, they don’t see the harm in it.
Unfortunately, young adults that engage in binge drinking are more likely to experience:
- Trouble at school
- Legal problems
- Higher risk of suicide
- Changes in brain development
- Memory problems
- Alcohol poisoning
Perhaps most frightening among the list of long-term effects of binge drinking is that teens who participate in this behavior are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence later in life.
As young adults begin to participate in binge drinking with their friends, this pattern of behavior can be complicated to break, especially if they’re unable to see the long-term consequences of their present actions. Unfortunately, binge drinking can easily slip into alcohol addiction.
The Link Between Binge Drinking And Alcoholism
While binge drinking is highly prevalent among teens and young adults, it’s important to note that this behavior isn’t limited to one age group. Anyone, at any age, can develop a binge-drinking habit.
Binge drinking is not considered a form of alcoholism because most people who participate in this behavior are not alcohol dependent. Instead, those that habitually binge drink usually fall somewhere in between being a problem drinker and an alcoholic- otherwise known as an “almost alcoholic.” Although they may not meet the full definition of someone who is addicted to alcohol, an “almost alcoholic” will begin to feel the adverse effects of their excessive binge drinking.
However, this could quickly change as a person continues to habitually binge drink. With this in mind, at what point does binge drinking become less of a fun, social activity and more of a serious drinking problem?
According to the CDC, those that experience any number of the symptoms listed below are considered to have an alcohol addiction:
- Inability to limit drinking
- Continuing to drink despite personal or professional problems
- Increased alcohol tolerance
- Inability to think of anything else besides drinking
- Suffering from withdrawal symptoms
- Unsuccessfully quitting drinking
The longer binge drinking continues, the greater the likelihood of developing an alcohol addiction becomes. Due to this, it’s essential to recognize the symptoms of binge drinking as early as possible.
Binge Drinking Symptoms
While the severity of symptoms is going to look different for everyone, the most common signs of binge drinking are:
- Drinking excessively on weekends or holidays: Those who binge drink don’t participate in drinking on a daily basis. Instead, they drink heavily on weekends or holidays because they feel like they can excuse or rationalize their behaviors at these times.
- Drinking more than initially planned: When a person only intends to have one or two drinks but ends up having four, five or six, there could be a significant binge drinking problem.
- Frequently blacking out: Binge drinking can lead to substantial periods of memory loss. Overindulging in alcohol is okay once in a while, but when blacking out becomes the norm, it’s a sign that there might be a dangerous problem.
- Engaging in risky behaviors: Getting drunk can cause people to participate in behaviors they otherwise wouldn’t. According to the NIAA, alcohol is to blame for about 60% of fatal burn injuries and drownings, and 40% of fatal falls and car accidents.
The earlier these symptoms are identified and addressed, the better. If they continue for an extended period of time, binge drinking can easily morph into a deep-seeded dependency on alcohol.
Binge Drinking Treatment
Individuals who develop a serious binge drinking habit need to seek the help of an addiction and mental health professional. Although binge drinking is not technically considered a form of alcoholism, it is often a precursor to addiction and should be treated as such.
If you or a loved one have questions about binge drinking, contact a treatment specialist today at 888-512-3326.