binge drinking

What we believe about drinking

Today, we were thinking about the variety of viewpoints we have seen (in books, in articles, etc.) on drinking and the right way to resolve a problem with excessive drinking.

There’s a lot more debate now than it seems like there used to be about questions like “can moderation work?” and “what is an alcoholic vs. a normal drinker?”

We decided to summarize three of our core beliefs about drinking here. Let us know what you think!

  1. We believe that drinking nothing is better than drinking moderately, but drinking moderately is better than drinking to excess. If you drink moderately (within the NIAAA guidelines, which we also share in the Drinker’s Helper app), you’re far less likely to suffer from an addiction to alcohol, which is one of the worst downsides of excessive drinking. You also won’t put yourself at risk of injuring yourself or others via accidents, or making poor judgment calls after one too many. However, if you drink moderately, you are still exposing yourself to some health risk, as recent studies have shown (see previous blog posts).

  2. We believe that there is a social stigma associated with changing your drinking behavior that should not exist. Partly this is down to an underlying desire to maintain a firm red line between “normal drinkers” and “alcoholics,” so that as a society we can avoid recognizing that alcohol is addictive, and that anyone who drinks at a certain level will likely get addicted. We believe this stigma results in people not making changes to their drinking until they’ve really messed up, and we’d all be better off if it was a more common, socially acceptable thing to do to take a break from drinking for a while. We believe most people who feel concerned about their own drinking levels will, if they carefully look at the evidence from their own experience, choose to drink moderately or quit entirely, rather than continue as they are.

  3. We believe that excessive drinking is not a moral failing to be judged, but a behavior that naturally develops when we believe inaccurate things both about alcohol and about sobriety. We believe that as a society we push alcohol so hard, across so many channels and in so many hard-to-detect ways, that it takes real work to re-program ourselves to see faults in it. As a society we train ourselves to drink to escape, relax, or have fun, among other reasons for drinking. Sobriety sounds like dull suffering, by comparison, when in fact it’s one of the best feelings there is. The work of changing those thoughts is what we try to do in the exercises in Drinker’s Helper.

If you’ve decided to cut back or quit drinking, we’d love to offer a helping hand. Drinker’s Helper offers a library of motivational exercises, support groups made up of peers at the same level of risky drinking, and drink and urge tracking and insights to help you observe your behavior and decide what you want to do.

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TL;DR: Binge drinking triggers greater cravings

Part of what gets lost when we focus on genetic causes of alcohol use disorder is the powerful effect behavior can have on the expression of genes.

This study at Rutgers University showed that alcohol changes the expression of certain genes in ways that make people want to drink more and find it more difficult to stop.

Here’s the TL;DR on what we learned (read the full article for more details!):

  1. Binge drinkers don’t get as much help as they need from genes intended to control their stress response system and biological clock.

  2. This alternation affects the children of heavy drinkers, too, such that they are more likely to abuse alcohol if they consume it.

This made a lot of sense to us. Binge drinking is problematic for a number of health reasons; it builds up a desire to get drunk, not just tipsy; and it over time increases your tolerance for alcohol, which of course encourages even heavier drinking.

If you’ve decided to cut back or quit drinking, we’d love to help. Download the Drinker’s Helper app today!

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What is binge drinking, and why shouldn't I do it?

Continuing in our series of important definitions (see previous post about what a drink is), this post explores what binge drinking is.

For a binge drinking definition, we turned to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (also supported by the CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)).

Binge drinking is a much lower level than what you might think is commonly considered heavy drinking - you might not even think you’re drinking too much. Binge drinking is defined as any drinking that brings your B.A.C. to above the US national legal driving limit of .08. That’s only about 4-5 drinks in a 2-hour period. Any night you set out to get drunk, you’re probably binge drinking.

The effects of binge drinking are much worse than drinking in moderation - in fact, of all the costs to society caused by alcohol, binge drinking causes fully 77% of them. Often, people who don’t think they have a problem with alcohol will go days without drinking, but then binge on the weekends, thinking this means they’re in the clear.

Here are some of the most common binge drinking effects:

  1. Poor decision-making: Because binge drinking makes you drunk, rather than slightly tipsy, it leads to poorer decisions. If those decisions are related to sex, they can cause sexually transmitted diseases or unintended pregnancies. If those decisions are related to acting on anger, they can lead to violence.

  2. Accidents: Again, because binge drinking makes you drunk, rather than slightly tipsy, it leads to extreme physical impairment. If you’re driving, of course, this leads to car accidents, but it can also lead to other types of accidents like falls.

  3. Chronic disease: This is the scarier part, especially for those that don’t generally think they have a drinking problem. Binge drinking (over time) can actually lead to chronic diseases like cancers of several kinds, heart or liver disease, high blood pressure or stroke, even if the person doesn’t have an alcohol dependence.

If you’re convinced to quit or cut back, try setting a goal and tracking your drinking in Drinker’s Helper. Download it here today!

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