What Is Binge Drinking and Is It Related to Alcohol Addiction?

What Is Binge Drinking and Is It Related to Alcohol Addiction?

Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more alcoholic beverages in a row within 2 hours. This type of alcohol consumption has become increasingly common over recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, binge drinking is responsible for over 80% of alcohol-related deaths each year. In the UK, Bath’s Institute for Policy Research confirms that binge drinking increases the average number of daily injury-related A&E attendances (8% increase).

Also increased are the daily average of road accidents (17% increase) and the average daily number of arrests for all alcohol-related incidences (45% increase). The number of police officers on duty in the first half of 2010s was increased by around 30%.

Binge drinking is dangerous because it puts your health at risk. There are several long term consequences of binge drinking, such as high blood pressure, liver disease, and even heart attack. Fortunately, binge drinking is preventable.


Binge Drinking Explained

The term binge drinking comes from the idea that these individuals consume a large amount of alcohol in a short period. Some people call it ‘binge’ because they feel like they’ve had too much to drink all at once, so they might get drunk very quickly. Others say it has to do with their alcohol consumption being out of control or having a lot of alcohol in one session.

People who binge drink regularly don’t realise they are putting themselves at risk from these diseases. They usually go straight home after drinking, without stopping to eat anything, before going to bed. If you want to reduce your chances of becoming ill from excessive alcohol consumption, try to moderate your intake.

The term usually refers to drinking more than the recommended limit. As of 2022, women and men are now advised to drink not more than 14 units per day. Read below to know what these units signify and how to spread them throughout the week to better manage your intake.


NHS Guidelines for Alcohol Consumption

The NHS guidelines state that both men and women should not consume more than 14 units per week, preferably spread throughout at least three days within the week in question. Usually, this would be the extended weekend (Friday to Sunday).

However, what are these ‘units’, and what do they mean for the British citizen? One unit equals 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which medical experts have measured to be what a normal human body can metabolise within an hour.

Thus, 14 units equal six pints of average-strength beer or ten small glasses of lower-strength wine. For example, a 750ml bottle of red, white or rosé wine (ABV 13.5%) contains 10 units. The measurements are done via the alcohol-per-volume equation, which accounts for the strength and volume of each drink.

What Causes Someone to Drink in Excess?

Excessive drinking isn’t always caused by genetics or personality traits. Sometimes, it can just come down to personal circumstances. It could be that someone feels isolated when alone, or maybe they have a stressful job. These factors may make them crave a drink when they get home, but they will probably stop after a few drinks. However, if they continue to drink, they’ll start to experience withdrawal symptoms.

When someone starts drinking in excess, to binge drink, they may notice some immediate effects. For instance, you may feel buzzed, relaxed, or less anxious. This is because alcohol increases dopamine levels in the brain, which would make you feel happier. However, it’s important to remember that these effects only last a short time. After around two hours, you may begin experiencing hangovers, mood swings, and other negative side effects.

You can avoid these problems by keeping track of your daily alcohol intake. This means remembering to drink enough water, eating healthy food, getting plenty of rest, and setting clear boundaries between work and play.


How Does Binge Drinking Differ from Alcohol Addiction?

Binge drinking is defined as having five or more alcoholic beverages on one occasion. In contrast, people with alcohol addiction often engage in risky behaviour, such as driving while intoxicated or using illicit drugs. As a consequence of addiction, their lives may become unmanageable, and they may harm themselves or others.

If someone is binging, they may be an occasional drinker – consuming alcohol only when celebrating or spending time within specific acquaintance groups. On the contrary, alcoholism is an intrusive dependence to the effects of alcohol on the body and brain.

Can a Binge Drinker Develop Alcohol Addiction & Dependence?

The short answer is yes; a person who abuses alcohol, which binging implies, can develop a dependence or an addiction. It is, however, important to note that a person who has developed an alcohol addiction may not necessarily be a binge drinker. They may consume large amounts of alcohol over a long period.

However, there are many similarities between people who abuse alcohol and those who binge drink. Both groups tend to drink heavily at times, and both groups can suffer from depression, anxiety, stress, and low self-esteem.

Alcoholism is a complex disease, so it’s difficult to know its causes. However, research suggests that genetic factors, family history, childhood trauma, and certain personality disorders increase the risk of developing alcoholism. In addition, environmental factors like living in poverty, poor health care, and social isolation also contribute to the development of alcoholism.

Advice for Those Concerned about their Drinking Habits

Here is our expert advice if you want to help someone who does binge on alcohol, occasionally or regularly:

  • If you suspect that someone else has alcohol addiction, talk to them. They may just be fearful to admit their need for help. Try to be understanding and open to their needs.
  • Find a reliable self-assessment tool to get a realistic overview of the problem. Such a tool is the CAGE questionnaire to help you identify alcohol addiction.
  • Alcohol detoxification is a method for seeing if someone can stop drinking; if abstinence is unbearable and withdrawal symptoms occur, they might be addicted, and you will need to contact a professional.
  • Talk to a GP. He/she can help you understand why there might be a need to cut back on alcohol intake, whether through counselling or medication.
  • If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with alcohol addiction, you should see a doctor immediately.


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    Jason Shiers
    Author / Jason Shiers / Dip.Psych MBACP
    Jason Shiers is a Certified Transformative Coach & Certified Psychotherapist who is a specialist in addiction, trauma and eating disorders. He has been working in the field of addiction for 25 years now.

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