Binge drinking

Binge drinking is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of alcohol abuse.

Binge drinking | Table of Contents

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking refers to excessive drinking within a short period of time. In other words, if the drinker’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches or exceeds 0.08 grams per 100 grams of blood, it is considered “binge.” Binge drinking usually occurs when a man consumes five or more drinks, or a woman consumes four or more drinks within two hours.

Binge drinking is quite prevalent among college students. Most college students who binge drink do it out of pure curiosity, peer pressure, or wanting to fit in. However, binge drinking can lead to severe health consequences and reckless and dangerous behavior.

While some binge drink solely to have fun, others do it as a form of self-medication to alleviate underlying issues. Binge drinking can be especially dangerous for college students battling loneliness and depression. Excessive drinking will only further aggravate these symptoms and result in a continuous pattern of alcohol abuse.

Some of the other reasons for college students to indulge in alcohol are:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Insecurity
  • Desire to fit in
  • Relationship issues
  • Trauma

The majority of the alcohol consumed by young adults under the age of 21 in the US is consumed through binge drinking. Binge drinking usually begins in late adolescence or early adulthood.


Is a binge drinker the same as an alcoholic?

Binge drinking is not the same as alcoholism. Not all binge drinkers are alcoholics, though most alcoholics do binge drink.

How do you know if you are a binge drinker?

If you generally consume high amounts of alcohol within a short period or one right after the other without any breaks in between, you are a binge drinker.

Is binge drinking really that bad?

More research shows that even a single episode of binge drinking can have serious effects on all parts of your body, not just your brain. Long-term damage from heavy alcohol use isn’t limited to people with alcohol use disorder. Frequent binge drinkers can also develop health problems.

Consequences of Alcohol Abuse in College 

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has published some alarming statistics that highlight the issues of alcohol abuse in college students aged 18 to 24:

  • Around  1,825 college students die from alcohol-related accidents each year.
  • More than 690,000 college students are physically assaulted by another intoxicated student.
  • About 97,000 college students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape each year.
  • Around 599,000 college students sustained accidental injuries while under the influence of alcohol
  • About 25 percent of college students admit to academic consequences as a result of drinking This includes missing classes, falling behind, doing poorly on exams, and receiving low overall grades
  • More than 150,000 college students develop an alcohol-related health problem each year.
  • 1.2 to 1.5 percent of college students confessed that they tried to commit suicide within the past year due to their drinking or drug use

Binge Drinking and Alcohol Abuse 

It is safe to assume that most individuals who consume alcohol have engaged in binge drinking at least once in their lifetime. Since moderate to heavy alcohol consumption can result in potential issues with judgment, any instance of binge drinking is a cause for concern. An individual who is legally intoxicated is prone to poor decision making and emotional control, putting them and those around them at a greater risk.

The most troublesome issue occurs in individuals who routinely engage in binge drinking. Such drinkers fall into the ”heavy drinking” category. Heavy drinkers retain a greater risk of developing AUD than those who consume alcohol occasionally. Although the practice of binge drinking alone is insufficient to diagnose AUD in an individual, regular binge drinkers are highly likely to have AUD than individuals who do not partake in binge drinking.

However, no specific amount of alcohol consumption is formally established to diagnose someone with AUD. The development of an alcohol use disorder is greatly related to the effects of alcohol in one’s life and their ability to control alcohol consumption.

According to SAMHSA and NIAAA, low-risk drinking behavior in men and women are: 

  • Men: Consuming fourteen or fewer drinks per week (no more than four drinks in a single day or occasion).
  • Women: Consuming seven or fewer drinks per week (no more than three drinks in a single day or occasion).

Research indicates that only two percent of individuals who stick to these levels or lower get diagnosed with AUD. However, over one-quarter of individuals who drank alcohol beyond these levels got diagnosed with alcohol use disorder. Thus, habitual binge drinking increases the risk of developing alcohol dependence and addiction.

Common Behaviors of Binge Drinkers

Binge drinkers tend to rationalize their questionable drinking behavior by looking for information that favors them. For example, an individual who regularly binge-drinks may look for the possible benefits of alcohol use to rationalize their problematic drinking. Some of the other behaviors of someone who binge drinks are:

Ignoring the concerns of others

Individuals who binge drink generally become defensive and try to rationalize their behavior when someone expresses concern regarding their alcohol consumption. The majority of individuals who are later diagnosed as “alcoholics” realize that their problematic habit was initially recognized by those around them.

Excessive drinking on weekends/holidays

Despite popular beliefs, binge drinkers and heavy drinkers generally do not drink regularly. In fact, one of the key warning signs of binge or heavy drinking is that the individual consumes excessive alcohol on weekends or holidays. These individuals may also try to rationalize their drinking behavior by pointing out that they only drink occasionally.

Frequently drinking more than what was intended initially

This is a potential sign of binge drinking as well as alcohol use disorder. When an individual frequently begins drinking with the intent of having only one or two drinks but ultimately ends up consuming more. This can also be an indicator of a more significant issue.

Failing to fulfill responsibilities due to alcohol use

Individuals who find it difficult to go to work, care for their children or keep their commitments after a night out maybe displaying a potential issue that can possibly lead to an alcohol use disorder.

Engaging in risky behaviors while drunk

Problematic behaviors such as engaging in frequent gambling, getting into physical fights, or driving under the influence may all be signs of alcohol abuse.

Undergoing memory lapses after drinking

Individuals who binge drink or drink heavily can have frequent blackouts or issues with memory due to their alcohol use.

Drinking alcohol with other drugs/medications regularly

When an individual starts combining alcohol with other drugs, it can be a warning sign of tolerance and dependence on alcohol. Individuals who practice polydrug use significantly increase their chances of an overdose.

These binge drinking behaviors may progress into adulthood unless the problem is addressed swiftly. Individuals with a history of binge drinking early have a higher risk of developing alcohol use disorder that can create long-term physical, emotional, and social consequences.

Risks Associated with Binge Drinking 

Alcohol use can result in a number of physical and psychological issues. The negative consequences of alcohol use are closely related to the amount of alcohol consumed rather than the type of alcohol consumed. Thus, binge drinking, even on wine or beer, increases the potential for negative effects when compared to the occasional use of liquor.

Health issues associated with binge drinking:

  • Cardiovascular disorders, such as high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack
  • Numerous forms of cancers and renal issues
  • Neurological issues, such as nerve pain, movement disorders, and dementia
  • Cognitive problems, such as issues with memory, attention, and problem-solving
  • Developing liver damage such as cirrhosis
  • Developing menstrual issues or impotence
  • Developing mental health disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and psychotic disorders
  • Stillbirth or miscarriage
  • Sudden infant death syndrome

Other risks associated with binge drinking:

  • Accidents
  • Getting involved in illegal activities or risky behaviors 
  • Prone to violent behavior
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Unintended pregnancy
  • Alcohol use disorder

Even though binge drinking cannot be formally diagnosed as a disorder, major organizations that are involved in the diagnosis and treatment of substance use disorders state that repeated binge drinking is the forerunner for serious issues with alcohol.


What is extreme binge drinking?

Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks on a single occasion for women, or five or more drinks on a single occasion for men, while extreme binge drinking was defined as consuming double those amounts or more.

What does binge drinking do to your body?

Binge drinking can cause cardiovascular disorders, neurological issues, renal issues, and numerous forms of cancers.

Can binge drinking damage your brain?

That old joke about going out drinking to kill a few brain cells may not be so funny anymore. According to research, binge drinking can lead to the development of mental health disorders, cognitive issues, and neurological issues.

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