Defining Binge Drinking and Alcohol Abuse

Posted in: Alcohol Abuse

June 22, 2015

A pile of bottle caps

Each year, millions of Americans consume alcohol. Some do it occasionally, while others do it on a regular basis. Many people who drink alcohol do so in moderation, but some abuse it by consuming large amounts at a time. Everyone has heard of binge drinking and alcohol abuse, but the exact definitions for these terms are somewhat vague. Due to this ambiguity, it helps to know exactly what they are. Knowing what counts as binge drinking and alcohol abuse can help people understand both how to drink responsibly, and if they have a problem with alcohol.

What Is Binge Drinking?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines moderate drinking for men as four or fewer drinks per day, and 14 or fewer drinks per week. For women, moderate drinking is considered three or fewer drinks per day and seven or fewer drinks per week. This means that any alcohol consumption that exceeds these numbers is considered binge drinking. The NIAAA also explains that, when someone binge drinks, he drinks so much alcohol in about a two-hour time period that his blood alcohol concentration levels reaches or exceeds 0.08g/dL. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists the following negative health effects of binge drinking:

  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Cardiovascular damage and disease
  • Children born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  • Liver disease
  • Neurological damage
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Unintentional and intentional injuries

Get help if you recognize your struggles with any of the aforementioned problems.

What Is Alcohol Abuse?

Binge drinking is related to alcohol abuse, but the two are not always the same. As the National Institutes of Health (NIH) describe, alcohol abuse occurs when someone (while not physically dependent on alcohol) drinks so much that her drinking causes problems in any of the following areas:

  • At home, school or at work
  • In personal relationships
  • With the law
  • With the well-being of oneself and others, as occurs in drinking and driving situations

The CDC also explains that alcohol abuse is distinguished from alcoholism, a chronic disease in which someone has strong cravings for alcohol. An alcoholic cannot control the amount of alcohol he consumes, so he continues drinking in spite of negative consequences. The NIH identifies the following symptoms of alcohol abuse:

  • Drinking despite negative consequences
  • Drinking alone
  • Attempting to hide alcohol use
  • Maintaining a poor diet
  • Needing alcohol to get through the day
  • Missing work, school or social activities because of drinking
  • Acting inappropriately
  • Become defensive when discussing drinking habits

Seek help if you or a loved one demonstrates any of these problems.

Statistics on Binge and Heavy Drinking

The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health defines binge drinking as consuming five or more drinks on one occasion, and heavy drinking as binge drinking that occurs at least five out of the previous 30 days. Their survey finds that nearly 60 million Americans aged 12 and older, or 23 percent of this population, engages in binge drinking. Additionally, 17 million people aged 12 and older, or 6.5 percent of this population, report drinking heavily.

Learn About Binge Drinking and Alcohol Abuse

Binge drinking and alcohol abuse can both affect someone’s life in significant ways. It can be difficult to admit that a problem exists, but, if you or a loved one fits any of the descriptions listed above, then you may be dealing with binge drinking or alcohol abuse. It is best to get help as soon as possible to prevent more physical, psychological, social and legal problems from arising. If you would like more information about how to get help for binge drinking and alcohol abuse, we can help. Our admissions coordinators are available to talk with you about treatment options. Call now to learn more about professional help 615-490-9376.

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