Alcoholics are often imagined or depicted as near-constant drinkers who use just to get through the day, every day. In fact, alcohol abuse comes in many forms, and it doesn’t have to be a daily or even frequent occurrence to be dangerous. Binge drinking is now recognized as one of the most widespread forms of alcohol abuse, and presents both special health risks and unique barriers to treatment.
What Is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is defined as drinking enough to reach a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. In practical terms, this usually means consuming 5 or more drinks within 2 hours for men and 4 or more drinks within 2 hours for women.
What Are the Risks of Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is associated with a number of serious short- and long-term health risks due to both physical and behavioral factors, including the following:
- Alcohol poisoning
- Accidental injuries
- Sexual transmitted diseases
- Unintended pregnancy
- Violent behavior
- Sexual dysfunction
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Neurological damage
- Aggravation of diabetes
- Liver disease
Although chronic binge drinking significantly heightens physical health risks, even isolated instances can have serious consequences.
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How Do I Know If I Need Treatment?
Because binge drinking is defined by drinking behavior within a 2-hour period rather than a pattern of drinking behavior, and often does not result in physical dependence, it can be difficult to know when you need alcohol abuse treatment. This is especially true if binge drinking is normalized within your social circle and you have experienced no serious damage from your drinking.
However, if you continue binge drinking despite negative consequences, or you cannot control your drinking once you get started, chances are that you need help. Substance use disorder, after all, is not defined by frequency of use, but by your relationship with the substance you are using—and may be present even if you are able to go significant periods of time without drinking. Taking an honest look at your relationship with alcohol is the first step in deciding whether or not treatment is right for you.
Another important factor to consider is why you are drinking. While some participate in binge drinking to have a good time, many turn to excessive alcohol consumption to cope with difficult emotions and to numb psychological pain. These cases can be particularly dangerous, as you are using alcohol in an unhealthy way that keeps you from truly healing from your distress. Over time, you can come to increasingly depend on alcohol to get through difficult times and set the stage for chronic alcohol use.
A comprehensive addiction treatment program will help you regain control of your life and give you the skills to cope with triggers, cravings, and any psychological distress you are experiencing in healthy and productive ways. By gaining insight into your drinking behavior and uncovering the roots of your bingeing, you can take meaningful steps toward lasting recovery and renewed emotional and behavioral stability.
We invite you to contact us at any time to learn more about binge drinking and help you assess whether or not you need treatment, or connect you with the resources you need to start your journey toward healing.