Understanding binge drinking is an important first step in recognizing alcohol misuse and dependence. Binge drinking is a serious but preventable problem that affects one in six Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here are some ways to recognize it.
Contact UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital at 412-624-1000 for more information on addiction medicine, rehabilitation, and recovery.
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Defining Binge Drinking
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of excessive drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams or above. This typically happens when men consume five or more drinks or women consume four or more drinks in about two hours.
Binge drinking is not the same as alcoholism, but people who binge drink are at a greater risk for developing alcohol dependency. Binge drinking is most common among younger adults age 18 to 34 and twice as common among men than among women, according to the CDC.
Risks of Binge Drinking
It’s a known fact that alcohol affects your liver. Binge drinkers are at a higher risk for developing a number of health problems, including:
- Injuries due to violence (homicide, suicide, domestic violence, sexual assault)
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Unintentional injuries (car crashes, falls, burns, and alcohol poisoning)
- Chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease
- Cancers of the mouth, breast, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon
- Memory and learning problems
- Alcohol dependency
Signs of Binge Drinking
It’s important to recognize the signs of binge drinking so you can get help. Warning signs include:
While many people drink excessively at some point in their lives, habitual drinking is the main warning sign. People who binge drink five or more times a month are considered “heavy alcohol users” and have an increased risk of developing an alcohol dependency.
Those who have a drinking problem often try to explain away what they’re doing or defend their behavior, it’s the sign an issue. Letting responsibilities slide — missing a meeting or forgetting to pick your kids up after school — because of drinking may signal an alcohol disorder.
Alcohol impairs judgement and lowers inhibitions, so binge drinking may encourage risky behavior such as engaging in unsafe sex, gambling, fighting, and reckless driving, as well as mixing alcohol with drugs and medications.
Binge drinkers often experience blackouts, which means they have no memory of what happened.
What You Can Do to Stop Binge Drinking
If you or someone you know displays binge drinking behaviors, there is hope. For advice on how to stop binge drinking, get in touch with a licensed mental health professional or addiction treatment specialist trained recognize and treat substance abuse.
Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength, and it’s often the first step toward resolving issues linked to your drinking.
If you or a loved one is battling binge drinking or alcoholism, we can help. Contact UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital at 412-624-1000 for more information on addiction medicine, rehabilitation, and recovery.
UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is the hub of UPMC Behavioral Health, a network of community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors. Our mission is to provide comprehensive, compassionate care to people of all ages with mental health conditions. UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. We are here to help at every stage of your care and recovery.