In a culture where drinking alcohol is widely accepted, it can be difficult to understand what counts as a dangerous drinking pattern. However, knowing your limits is key to preventing alcohol-related harm to your physical and mental health.
So, what exactly is binge drinking? Is it the same as alcohol addiction? And what are the main effects that excessive drinking can have on your health and well-being? That’s what we’ll be exploring in this blog post. Read on to learn all about binge drinking.
How Much Alcohol Consumption Counts as Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is often characterised by consuming a large quantity of alcohol in a short period, typically leading to a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In simpler terms, it involves drinking to the point of intoxication in a single sitting.
The NHS defines binge drinking as ‘drinking heavily over a short space of time’. Likewise, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking an amount of alcohol that leads to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more.
You may reach this blood alcohol concentration if you drink four or more drinks (for women), and five or more drinks (for men), within the span of two hours.
The official measurement of alcohol consumption is in units. One unit is equivalent to 10 millimetres or 8 grams of pure alcohol.
For men, exceeding 8 units of alcohol in a single session is considered binge drinking, while for women, the limit is 6 units. It’s important to note that these figures can vary based on individual factors such as weight, age, and overall health.
Binge Drinking vs Casual Drinking
In the UK, only 20% of people class themselves as ‘non-drinkers’. Drinking is widely accepted in England – it’s the norm to enjoy a glass of Champagne at special events or enjoy a pint after a long week.
Casual drinking typically involves consuming alcohol in small to moderate amounts without experiencing negative effects on your physical or mental health. Casual drinking doesn’t tend to jeopardise your well-being.
On the other hand, binge drinking is characterised by its intensity and frequency. While casual drinking may involve one or two alcoholic drinks in an evening, binge drinking usually entails consuming a lot of alcohol in a short period of time.
This pattern of excessive alcohol intake can lead to significant risks to both physical and mental health, setting it apart from more casual drinking habits.
Is Binge Drinking The Same as Alcoholism?
Binge drinking is not necessarily the same as alcoholism. Although many people with an addiction may binge drink, not all binge drinkers are considered alcoholics.
Instead, binge drinking and alcoholism are distinct patterns of alcohol consumption, each with its own characteristics.
Binge drinking involves consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period, leading to intoxication. It’s episodic, with occasional heavy drinking, and may contribute to health issues. However, it doesn’t necessarily indicate an alcohol dependence.
Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is a more serious condition. It involves a persistent dependence on alcohol. This dependence leads to a compulsive need for drinking – and you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit drinking or cut down on your alcohol consumption.
While alcohol abuse can be a warning sign or a symptom of alcoholism, not everyone who binge drinks will develop alcoholism.
The Effects of Binge Drinking
Binge drinking is a dangerous drinking pattern. Drinking alcohol in excessive amounts can lead to a range of short-term and long-term health problems, both physical and mental.
One of the most immediate risks of alcohol abuse is alcohol poisoning. Excessive alcohol consumption can overwhelm your body’s ability to process it, leading to a dangerous rise in BAC (blood alcohol concentration) that can be fatal.
Alcohol consumption is a carcinogen – so drinking alcohol can increase the risk of developing seven different types of cancer, including breast, bowel and mouth cancer.
Additionally, alcohol abuse and dangerous drinking habits can also increase the risk of accidents, injuries, and risky behaviours due to impaired judgement and coordination. Research suggests that alcohol abuse can be linked to road injuries, falls, burns, workplace injuries, suicide, self-harm and violence.
Drinking heavily can also impact your mental health – for example, you may feel anxiety or stress after binge drinking. Likewise, alcohol can exacerbate existing mental health issues and trigger new ones.
Frequent alcohol misuse can also increase the risk of substance abuse and addiction – which can be difficult to overcome without support. This is something we can help with at Rehubs. We can help you regain control over your drinking, embrace sobriety, and turn over a new leaf.
Excessive drinking can affect different age groups differently. For example, if you’re older, you may be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol as older bodies metabolise alcohol more slowly. This can result in a higher risk of falls, liver disease, and other health issues.
Additionally, it’s important to consider how much binge drinking costs and how it can affect your finances. Spending money on alcohol regularly can take its toll on your finances, which could lead to relationship issues and even legal problems.
Get Help for Binge Drinking Today
If you are concerned about your drinking habits, you’re not alone. Our friendly team of addiction experts at Rehub are here for you. Our online platform is designed to help people overcome drug and alcohol dependence – and can help you get your life back by making a lasting recovery.
Likewise, if you’re worried that a friend or loved one is a binge drinker, our program and convenient recovery app can guide them to turn over a new leaf and begin a sober life.
The first step towards seeking support is recognising the harm caused by dangerous drinking. Substance abuse and addiction are treatable conditions, and seeking help is a proactive step towards a healthier and more fulfilling life.
At Rehubs, we take a personal approach to treatment. We understand that one size does not fit all, which is why we create tailored recovery plans. Through therapy and counselling, we can work together to address the root causes of your addiction, develop effective coping strategies, and build a solid support network.
Begin your sobriety journey today with Rehubs. We can empower you to kickstart your new life – a brighter, healthier future awaits you.
Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab centre called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade.