How to Stop Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is one of the most common forms of excessive alcohol use in the U.S. It is most associated with young people, college parties and social drinking. Despite younger adults being most at risk for binge drinking, it can affect everyone of all ages. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 90% of people who drink excessively participate in binge drinking.

The short but heavy volume of alcohol consumption has proven to be just as deadly as long-term alcohol abuse. The human body can only process about one unit of alcohol per hour. When you drink too much alcohol in a short period of time, the alcohol will flood your bloodstream too quickly, making it more difficult for your body to process properly. This causes your blood alcohol content level to rise and puts you at risk for vomiting, blackouts or even passing out.

A young man in a red shirt with his head down while holding a glass of alcohol in the other hand binge drinking.

Why do people binge drink and how to stop binge drinking, are questions to consider when addressing the binge drinking problem in the U.S.

Definition of a Binge Drinker

Drinking alcohol has become a vital part of social culture worldwide. Some cultures drink more than others. Who binge drinks? According to statistics, binge drinking is the most common among young adults ages 18-34. It is more common among men compared to women. And it is more common among adults with a household income of $75K or more. According to the CDC, almost 1 in 6 adults participate in binge drinking.

The measurement of alcohol consumption according to U.S. standards is made up of three categories of drinking: moderate drinking, binge drinking and heavy alcohol use.

Moderate drinking is defined as 2 drinks or less in a day for men. For women, 1 drink or less in a day is considered moderate drinking.

What is the definition of a binge drinker? According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that raises the blood alcohol concentration level to 0.08% or more. On average for men, 5 or more drinks in two hours is considered binge drinking. For women, 4 or more drinks within two hours is considered binge drinking. 

For men, 4 drinks or more in a day and 14 drinks per week is considered heavy alcohol use. For women, 3 drinks or more in a day and 7 drinks per week is considered heavy alcohol use. Binge drinking five or more days in the past month is also considered to be heavy alcohol use.

What are the signs of someone who has a binge drinking problem?

  • You drink more than you intended
  • You have a difficult time cutting yourself off from alcohol once you have started drinking
  • You frequently experience alcoholic blackouts
  • You feel guilty or ashamed about the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Your mental health symptoms have become worse after drinking
  • You are more prone to engaging in reckless behaviors

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What are the consequences of Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking leads to faster intoxication because of the quick rise in BAC. Like any other form of alcohol misuse, it can result in a range of negative consequences. Just one episode of binge drinking can compromise the immune system and lead to a significant number of medical impairments. It can result in both medical and psychological damage to the body. Some of the risks and consequences of binge drinking include:

  • Headaches, nausea and vomiting.
  • Loss of coordination and impaired judgment.
  • Motor vehicle accidents.
  • Violence.
  • Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and liver damage.
  • High risk for a stroke or heart attack and other cardiovascular issues
  • Cancer. Excessive alcohol harms the body and interferes with its ability to absorb nutrients and break down harmful chemicals. This could lead to cancer of the neck, liver and breast.
  • Memory impairment and learning problems. Binge drinking affects a person’s ability to retain short-term memories that can result in blackouts and fragmented memories.
  • Alcohol poisoning and overdose. Drinking too much alcohol in a short period of time can cause reduced heart rate, breathing and body temperature.
  • Conflicts in personal and professional relationships.
  • Weaken immune system.
  • Digestive issues.
  • Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
  • Weight gain. Many alcoholic beverages contain large amounts of calories.

Young adults are the largest category of binge drinkers. Binge drinking can cause impaired brain development and lead to a wide range of lingering deficits in development. This includes damage to social skills, attention skills, and memory skills. Basic cognitive functions that are essential to the development of young adults are often compromised when they partake in excessive alcohol abuse. Binge drinking can also lead to the development of or be an early indicator of alcohol use disorder.

Binge Drinking vs Alcoholism

Binge drinking and alcohol use disorder are often compared and thought to be similar disorders. Alcoholism and alcohol use disorder is a collection of long-term patterns of alcohol misuse that become difficult to control despite resulting in negative consequences. AUD is a mental health disorder. Binge drinking is a form of alcohol misuse. Occasionally binge drinking doesn’t necessarily mean a person is addicted to alcohol. However, regular and consistent binge drinking can lead to the development of alcohol use disorder or alcoholism.

Characteristics of Binge Drinking:

  • A pattern of alcohol abuse that can lead to the development of AUD
  • Large quantities of alcohol is consumed in a short period of time
  • Risk for cardiovascular diseases
  • Risk of blackouts
  • Risk of physically passing out
  • Risk for alcohol poisoning and overdose

Characteristics of Alcoholism and Alcohol Use Disorder:

  • A mental health condition
  • Users develop a psychosocial and physical dependence on alcohol
  • Users can experience AUD without the behaviors of binge drinking
  • Risk for cancers of the mouth, liver, breast and colon
  • Risk for cardiovascular diseases
  • Risk for liver diseases
  • Symptoms of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression

Why do people Binge Drink?

There are many factors in why people turn to binge drinking. One major reason is stress. The emotional toll stress can have on a person who is unable to effectively process it can be debilitating. Binge drinking turns into a form of self-medication as a way to feel instant relief.

Boredom and loneliness can also lead to patterns of binge drinking. Oftentimes, these people are struggling with mental illness symptoms that lead to feelings of isolation and lack of purpose.

The lack of awareness of alcohol tolerance is a factor in many young adults who binge drink. Young adults have less experience and knowledge around alcohol and do not know where their limits are. They often do not know how to handle alcohol once they have moved past their alcohol limit.

Social anxiety and peer pressure is another major factor that contributes to why young adults frequently binge drink. Drinking has become a huge part of young people’s lives through cultural and social interactions. Young people often binge on alcohol as a way to be accepted into specific social groups. Other times binge drinking provides a sense of confidence that they wouldn’t normally have unless they were drinking.

How to stop Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is a form of alcohol misuse that could potentially lead to alcohol use disorder and addiction. Fortunately, there are many ways to control or stop binge drinking habits.

Setting alcohol limits. If you’re going to a social gathering where there will be alcohol, set a limit on yourself and stick to that limit.

Taking small sips at a time. In an era where drinking is often glorified, it can be easy to get caught up in having multiple drinks. Taking small sips of your drink will allow you to still enjoy the benefits of having alcohol without overconsuming it.

Drink more water. Staying hydrated with water through the duration of your drinking timeline will help the body dilute and filter out the alcohol chemicals.

Eat before you drink. Eating a meal or a snack will help prolong the negative symptoms of alcohol.

Practice resisting peer pressure. Young adults often face immense pressure when it comes to drinking. Finding healthier and alternative ways to manage social anxiety will help prevent you from giving in to peer pressure drinking. 

At Hotel California by the Sea, the alcohol use disorder treatment program is designed to help clients engage in all forms of alcohol misuse. The alcohol addiction program for young adults focuses on treating clients who frequently binge drink. Through detox and cognitive therapies, clients receive the tools they need to overcome their binge drinking issues. Hotel California by the Sea offers a full range of treatments from detox, residential, PHP and IOP. Early treatment of binge drinking could prevent the development of a dangerous alcohol use disorder and addiction.