what is considered heavy drinking

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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