Chances are, you may have a distorted idea of what binge drinking looks like. We’ve all been exposed to the many films, and television shows depictions of excessive drinking. But binge drinking is actually defined as consuming four or more drinks within two hours for women and five or more drinks for men in the same time period. The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for this level of imbibing equals 0.08 g/dl or greater. Should you be concerned that you may be struggling with alcohol and need to seek treatment for binge-drinking?
What are the Risks of Binge Drinking?
Four or five drinks within two hours may not seem excessive, but the CDC states that several health problems are associated with binge drinking:
- Greater likelihood of getting into a car accident, sustaining injuries like falls or burns, or getting alcohol poisoning
- Higher incidence of violent acts, including sexual assault, domestic violence, suicide, or homicide
- Sexually-transmitted diseases
- Unintended pregnancy
- Poor pregnancy outcomes such as miscarriage, stillbirth, fetal alcohol syndrome, or babies born with congenital disabilities
- Memory and learning issues
- Risk of alcohol-related blackouts
- Certain Cancers
- Alcohol Use Disorder
When Does Binge-Drinking Become an Alcohol Disorder?
The CDC weighed in on whether people who binge drink have an alcohol disorder. They concluded that only about 10% of those who drink excessively would meet the clinical diagnostic criteria. So, how do you know if your excessive alcohol use could point to a more serious problem requiring treatment for binge-drinking?
Pay attention to these signs:
- You’re unable to limit your drinking.
- Continuing to drink despite the negative effects it has on your personal and professional life.
- Craving additional drinks so that you can continue to get the desired effect.
- Thinking about having a drink so often that it disrupts your life, and you can’t concentrate on anything else.
- Unable to fulfill your responsibilities at work or home.
- You drink in situations where it’s unsafe to use alcohol (driving, swimming, etc.)
- You’re beginning to isolate yourself from your social networks and give up activities and hobbies that used to give you pleasure.
- Spending a lot of time recovering from the effects of drinking too much.
- You start to experience withdrawal symptoms like nausea, sweating and shaking when you attempt to stop drinking. Then you drink to avoid having these symptoms.
If you’re still not sure about whether your binge drinking is a sign of a bigger problem, answer these questions honestly:
- Have you found yourself in a situation where you drank a lot and didn’t remember what happened?
- Have others commented on how much you drink?
- Do you give up your responsibilities or plans that don’t include alcohol to spend time doing something that includes drinking?
- Do you feel ashamed about how much you drink?
If you answered “yes” to most of those questions, you might need to address your alcohol use or seek support.
Ways You Can Begin to Manage Excessive Drinking on Your Own
If you want to cut down on your drinking, you’ll need to develop an accountability plan before going out.
- Begin by self-reflecting: How did you feel the last time you drank too much?
- Outline clear rules for how much you will drink at the bar, party, or event.
- Set a budget for how much you’ll spend.
- What are others’ expectations for how much you will drink? Determine how you’ll communicate your intention to set limits.
- Make sure you know how you will be getting home and what time you’ll need to leave. Set up some safety rules in advance.
- Start thinking about what you have to do the day after drinking. What kinds of responsibilities or activities are you committed to?
When you do arrive at your destination, make sure you’ve had something to eat first, slow the pace of your drinking, and have a full glass of water between each alcoholic drink.
What if you Discover you Need More Intensive Treatment for Binge-Drinking?
If you’re unable to manage your excessive drinking independently, there’s no shame in asking for help. You may need a more structured program and a supportive team of experts who can teach you the tools and life skills you’ll need to eliminate your alcohol dependence.
Spring Gardens Recovery offers programs that meet our patients’ needs wherever they struggle with addictive substances. Using our holistic approach, you will leave the program with a greater sense of self-awareness and improved physical, mental, and spiritual health. Contact us today to find out how we can support your efforts to feel whole without relying on alcohol.
Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm  https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm#alcoholismAbuse  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243  https://msw.usc.edu/mswusc-blog/binge-drinking-moderation-strategies/
Samantha Nettleton, CCTP, CMHIMP is the Chief Operating Officer and Clinical Director for Spring Gardens Recovery. After completing and receiving her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Human Services (Concentrations in Mental Health & Addiction Counseling), she became licensed for the State of Florida as a Mental Health Counselor. She has also been a recovery coach since 2012. Samantha specializes in Trauma, Personality Disorders, Substance Abuse, Process Addictions, and Other Mental Health Disorders.