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Binge Drinking Explained – A Comprehensive Guide

April 22, 2020
Binge drinking explained

The following blog has been reviewed by an expert. For more information, please see our editorial policy.

In India, alcohol is the most popular recreational drug. It is also one of the leading causes of significant deaths in the country due to drug overdose. People may not think of it as a drug due to its popularity and wide availability, sometimes even failing to recognise its ill effects. Binge drinking is one of the popular alcohol-use trends in the country, especially among youngsters.

This guide will help you learn a number of things about binge drinking like —

  1. Meaning of binge drinking
  2. How much alcohol consumption is considered binge drinking?
  3. Top 6 causes of binge drinking
  4. Symptoms of binge drinking
  5. Dangers of binge drinking
  6. Difference between binge drinking and alcohol abuse
  7. How much binge drinking causes liver damage?
  8. Is binge drinking alcoholism?
  9. Can binge drinking cause a stroke?
  10. Dangers of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning
  11. How do I stop binge drinking

Meaning of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is defined as heavy alcohol intake within a brief period of time, typically with an intention to get intoxicated. It is also often associated with social drinking.

How Much Alcohol Consumption is Considered Binge Drinking?

Studies suggest that drinking under 100g of alcohol per week (spread throughout the week) is considered low-risk drinking, while binge drinking is four or more drinks (40g+) for women and five or more drinks (50g+) for men in a single session (2 hours). This level of drinking may lead to fatalities.

According to a report by the WHO, frequent alcohol consumption in the country increased by 5.7 litres per capita in the year 2016, which is predicted to increase by 2.2 litres per capita by 2025. The data shows that average alcohol consumption in men is 9.4%, whereas, in women, it is only 1.7%. It also suggests that India’s average daily intake of pure alcohol is 31.5 grams. For 2020, the consumption remains at 6.6 litres, which is likely to grow to 7.9 litres by 2025.

Top 6 Causes of Binge Drinking

Here are the top 6 causes of binge drinking:

6 causes of binge drinking

1. Fun

The idea of the modern world to socialise and have a good time seems to be to have alcoholic drinks starting with beer. Alcohol enables people to let loose their self-consciousness and provides relief from everyday work or family stress. Binge drinking is a common phenomenon in parties to the extent that a party is considered a failure with it.

2. Social Confidence

Drinking alcohol helps people who are socially awkward to become more relaxed in a social setting. It helps people feel more uninhibited. Many young and older adults indulge in binge drinking to feel they are part of the crowd, feel confidence, and be out there and mix well with others.

3. Avoid Problems

One of the most popular reasons people binge drink is to forget about their problems and release the anxiety that these problems bring. Doing so regularly can make a person vulnerable to alcohol addiction and lead them to begin their primary coping strategy as drinking.

4. Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is a common reason among youngsters who engage in binge drinking behaviours. Many of the high school and college-going youngsters may indulge in excessive drinking to feel like they fit in the scene. It may lead them to think that they are becoming more desirable or popular.

5. Curiosity

Many youngsters often start drinking out of curiosity which slowly turns into binge drinking.

6. Rebellion

Particularly in teenagers, drinking can occur as a necessity to revolt against their parents, especially if the relationship is strained. Binge drinking can be their weapon in defiance against the rules and regulations set by their parents. In addition, teenagers can also indulge in binge drinking to state independence and feel like an adult.

Symptoms of Binge Drinking 

Drinking can be categorized as mild, severe, and extreme, depending on the number of symptoms you encounter. Some of the symptoms of binge drinking may include the following:

1. Ignoring others’ concerns

If other people continue to voice their opinions about your alcohol abuse, it becomes necessary to listen to them. People suffering from the problem of binge drinking become defensive in most cases and make attempts to rationalize their use. Their behaviour may lead family members and friends to describe them as alcoholics.

2. Frequent drinking

When frequent drinking turns into binge drinking, a person must seek help. Binge drinking usually occurs during weekends when everyone is home or in a social gathering, while frequent drinking has the potential to develop binge drinking during weekdays. Sometimes an individual may categorize their binge drinking behaviour as “only on weekends” to rationalise their problem with alcohol. 

3. Engaging in risky behaviours

While a person is under the influence of alcohol, they may engage in risky behaviours like gambling, unprotected sex, and rash driving, which is a common sight in India.

4. Drinking excessively

By definition, binge drinking is drinking excessively in a short amount of time. So, when a person starts drinking heavily and consistently, they have developed a habit of binge drinking. It is a warning sign that a person needs help.

5. Memory lapses

During a binge drinking episode, a person may experience a blackout. 

6. Using alcohol with medicines

It is often seen that a person mixing drugs, whether prescribed or not, with alcohol, they start losing track of substance consumption. For binge drinking, mixing high amounts of alcohol with other drugs can lead to toxic overdose, which requires immediate medical attention.

Dangers of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking has several harmful effects. The short-term and long-term effects of binge drinking are as follows.

Short-term Effects of Binge Drinking

  • Causes high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats
  • Causes vomiting and leads to dehydration leading to lower mineral levels in a person’s body
  • Impedes gag reflex causing vomit and other substances to enter the lungs, thereby, leading to infections or suffocation
  • Leads to lower blood sugar levels
  • Increases the chances of unsafe sex and unplanned pregnancy

Long-term Effects of Binge Drinking

  • Leads to anaemia and low blood platelet count
  • Leads to osteoporosis, i.e. weak or brittle bones
  • Increases risk of strokes and dementia
  • Causes anxiety, depression, and psychosis
  • Reduces fertility in women and lowers sperm count in men
  • Can lead to malnutrition

Getting the Right Help

There is no approved diagnosis for binge drinking. Although alcohol use disorder is the only approved diagnosis for alcohol problems, binge drinking can lead to severe health issues. If you are involved in habitual binge drinking, it is advisable to consult a psychological expert who specializes in substance abuse or addictions. They can give recommendations about how you must proceed further.

If you know anyone with a problem of binge drinking or have it yourself, do not view asking for aid as a sign of vulnerability. It is an initial step towards your betterment. It is a sign of strength and your willingness towards getting better and resolving issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between binge drinking and alcohol abuse?

Binge drinking is consuming a huge amount of alcohol in a single session to get quick intoxication. It is when, for instance, a person consumes five beers within two hours in a social gathering. Binge drinking can be once a week, once a  month or anytime.

Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, is the consumption of a substantial amount of alcohol routinely  above recommended low-risk guidelines. It effectively hinders the lifestyle and relationships, while inducing many health problems. Regular alcohol abuse can develop a dependence on the substance.

2. How much binge drinking causes liver damage?

Yes, binge drinking can cause liver damage. It mainly depends upon the amount of alcohol a person is consuming per binge drinking session. According to the University of California, seven sessions of intermittent binge drinking pure alcohol are enough to harm the liver.

3. Is binge drinking alcoholism?

It is a possibility that some binge drinkers may develop alcoholism over time, but it is not the case with everyone. There are few instances where people have consumed heavy alcohol over the weekends and have gotten well through weekdays, which is mostly the modern culture. Also, many young people, who were involved in binge drinking, have grown out of it after leaving college or the frequent party scenes. Therefore, it is not necessary that binge drinking always turns out to be alcoholism.

4. Can binge drinking cause a stroke?

It is unlikely for binge drinking to cause a stroke. If in some cases, a person has developed alcoholism or is involved in frequent binge drinking, then there are high chances of irregular heartbeats leading to strokes. A person having pre-existing heart disease is more prone to stroke from frequent binge drinking.

5. What are the dangers of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning?

Some dangers of binge drinking include injuires and accidents, high blood pressure, depression, suicide, unsafe sex, sexually transmitted diseases, driving under the influence of alcohol, organ inflammations, and alcohol overdose.

Some dangers of alcohol overdose, also called alcohol poisoning, include unconsciousness, seizures, stroke, low breathing rate, unresponsiveness, vomiting, and death.

6. How do I stop binge drinking?

Here are few things you can do to stop binge drinking:

  • Analyze how alcohol has affected your life
  • Think about quitting alcohol either altogether or drinking less
  • Keep a drinking journal and analyze your drinking behaviour
  • Join a support group or tell your relative or friend about your goals
  • Consult a doctor to get clarity on binge drinking 
  • Spend less time with people who consume alcohol or involve you in it
  • Find new hobbies to stay busy
  • Exercise daily for better health and stress relief
  • Keep a routine
  • Drink more water and find an alternate alcoholic drink with water next time you go out with friends
  • Reward yourself at regular intervals for achieved goals