Binge Drinking: The Risks, and How To Stop

Last Updated on October 16, 2020

When people think about alcohol abuse, they often picture a person drinking heavily and steadily, every day of the week. But in reality, there are several types of drinking that can cause problems in a person’s life, and affect their health. One of these is binge drinking.

Binging is very common—1 in 6 American adults binge roughly once a week, and 26.9 percent report binge drinking within the last month. Binge drinking may even account for up to 50 percent of the drinks served in the U.S. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), more than half the alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. each year are due to binge drinking.

Below, we’ll answer some common questions about binge drinking, keeping your alcohol consumption within healthy limits, and how you can quit binge drinking if it’s become a problem for you.

What Is Binge Drinking?

stop binge drinking, man at bar
Photo by Eric Tompkins on Unsplash

Binge drinking means consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time. Often this happens during social events, in bars, or among large gatherings of people.

How Many Drinks Constitutes Binge Drinking?

What is considered binge drinking? According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), if you drink enough to bring your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 or above, it’s considered binge drinking. For men, this often means five drinks or more within two hours. For women, the amount is generally four or more. This is also the threshold for drunk driving in much of the United States.

What Are The Risks of Binge Drinking?

Short-term risks of binge drinking include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents from driving under the influence
  • Accidental injury from slips, trips, and falls
  • Increased likelihood of physical altercations or arguments
  • Greater risk of sexual assault or date rape
  • Higher chances of sexually transmitted infections or unintended pregnancy from unprotected sex
  • Alcohol poisoning, leading to hospitalization or even death.

Long-term risks of consistent binge drinking include:

  • Greater likelihood of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • Increased risk for several types of cancer
  • Heart, liver, and kidney disease, as well chronic illnesses like diabetes
  • Problems with memory and learning

All of this, without even taking into account the impact of hangovers on job performance, or the toll that excessive drinking takes on your relationships.

Is Binge Drinking Alcoholism?

Is a binge drinker the same as an alcoholic? Not necessarily. Many people who are alcoholics binge drink, and binge drinking can lead to alcoholism. The key difference is how often you binge, whether it becomes a pattern, and whether it’s causing harm to you or those around you.

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) defines heavy alcohol use as binging five or more times per month. But even if you binge drink rarely, if you have trouble controlling your drinking once you start, that’s still an issue. Problem drinking exists on a spectrum. If you’re concerned you may have an alcohol use disorder, take our alcohol use survey. You don’t need to be a typical “alcoholic” to get help for your drinking patterns.

How to Binge Drink Safely

In truth, there is no safe way to binge drink. But if you intend to drink a lot in one night, there are things you can do to lower your risk.

The most important thing is to have dependable friends looking out for you. Make a plan for how you will get home, or where you’ll stay for the night. Consider giving your car keys to someone you trust before you begin drinking. Be sure you’re in a safe place, around people who wont put you under excessive peer pressure. And otherwise, pace yourself, eat something beforehand, hydrate, drink beer instead of liquor to slow yourself down, and make sure you don’t binge more than once in a blue moon!

Read More: Tips For Keeping Party Drinking Under Control

Benefits of Stopping Binge Drinking

Quitting binge drinking can have a massive number of benefits for your health and well being. Here are just a few:

  • Fewer hangovers
  • Improved safety on a night out
  • Greater mental clarity—including improved decision making, focus, and memory
  • Decreased depression and anxiety
  • Better digestion and nutrition
  • Lower risk for chronic illnesses
  • Increased fertility if you’re trying for a baby
  • Savings from buying less alcohol
  • People who stop binge drinking often lose weight

Even taking a month off from drinking, such as Dry January, can lower your blood pressure, improve your skin, help you lose weight, improve your sleep, and allow your liver to heal.

Read Claudia Christian’s take on spending One Year Sober

How To Stop Binge Drinking

man holding head by window stop binge drinking
Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

Just because quitting has many benefits doesn’t mean it’s easy. You may wake up with a splitting hangover headache and tell yourself “I need to stop binge drinking,” but that doesn’t mean you’ll stick with that resolution tomorrow. Below are some tips on how to stop being a binge drinker:

How To Cure Binge Drinking

Ultimately, curing binge drinking involves behavior change. It wont happen overnight. In some cases, you’ll need to take a break from the social environments and people who inspire you to drink while building new habits. And you’ll probably need to make some permanent changes in the activities you do for fun.

If it’s hard to cut back on your own, you might also consider an approach like the Sinclair Method. This strategy involves targeted doses of the drug naltrexone to reduce the pleasurable effects of alcohol. Many people find that this approach gradually reduces their interest in drinking.

Read more: 9 Tips for Quitting Alcohol

What Are Some Strategies To Use To Avoid Binge Drinking?

If you’re going out for the night, and you don’t want to binge, start by making a plan in advance. What are your drink limits? How late do you want to stay out? It can be helpful to make a list of what you want to do the following morning, why you don’t want to be hungover, and what you need to accomplish the next day.

Next, ask some friends you trust to hold you accountable. Limit how much money you bring, and consider leaving your credit card at home. Choose a type of alcohol you don’t like as much. If you’re at a bar, set up a competitive game of pool, bocce, or darts, so that if you get too drunk you’ll lose. And avoid drinking games, or buying rounds, like the plague.

You might even consider buying a digital breathalyzer, and checking your BAC level throughout the night. This will help you keep track of how drunk you really are.

How To Stop Binge Drinking On Weekends

If you don’t work on weekends, it can be easy to fall into the trap of excessive drinking. The key here is to stay busy, and find other activities you enjoy. Try getting friends together during the day for a nice lunch, or gather in the park to play sports or jog. That way you can get your social time in without feeling pressure to drink. And in general, identify new hobbies to fill your free time and distract yourself.

Read More: Alternatives to Drinking Alcohol

How To Stop Binge Drinking At Home

Not everyone who drinks to excess does so in public. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re wondering how to reduce binge drinking at home, one strong first step is to stop keeping alcohol in your house. It can also help to take up a mindfulness practice, or find alternative activities that help you relax. And if being home alone is too triggering, find some way to leave the house. Even finding a friend to talk to over the phone can help distract you.

Continue Reading: Staying Sober During Social Distancing

How To Help Someone Stop Binge Drinking

If you have a loved one who wants to quit binge drinking, there are several ways to be a good ally. If you often go out with this person socially, you can offer to help them stick with their drinking limits. You can also offer to text or check in throughout the week and lend positive reinforcement. Finally, it they are interested in professional support you can help them research their options and work out logistics.

It’s important to remember, however, that you are never fully responsible for someone else’s behavior. Your friend or loved one must want to change of their own accord, and set their own goals. Once they’ve done that, you can lend a strong helping hand and be “on their team” as much as they need.

Read more: How To Help An Alcoholic

Apps For Quitting Binge Drinking

If you’re struggling to quit binge drinking on your own, there are many solutions besides traditional rehab. One increasingly popular option is to find a stop binge drinking app on your phone.

Drink trackers such as Quit That! and Sobriety Counter can help you keep count of how many servings you’re having per night, per week, or per month. Online sober communities like Sober Grid and Daybreak can also give you needed encouragement. There are even apps to stop binge drinking through hypnosis, including Stop Drinking with Andrew Johnson.

For more complete support, consider an online program like Ria Health. Like the above apps, the whole thing can be done 100 percent through your smartphone. But you also get access to expert medical support, recovery coaching, anti-craving medications, and more. Best of all, the program is flexible and judgement free. You don’t need to identify as an alcoholic or quit completely—you set your goals and we help you get there.

Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you stop binge drinking for good.

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