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Is Binge Drinking Alcoholism?

Researchers from the University of Alabama (at Birmingham) estimate that over 1,800 college students aged between 18 and 24 die every year from injuries related to alcohol abuse and binge drinking - including car accidents and machine-related accidents. According to the same study, 20% of college students meet the basic criteria for alcohol use disorders, while 1 in every 4 college students have reported negative academic performance related to drinking - including but not limited to receiving lower overall grades, flunking papers and exams, and missing class.

However, binge drinking affects more than just young adults. According to a recent report by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), most people could be part of the exploding population of Americans who are nearing the danger zone with alcohol. The report suggests that more than 38 million American adults drink heavily on an average of 4 times a month. It also discovered that the population earning over $75,000 a year are more apt to start binge drinking.

What is not clear to most is what binge drinking involves. For men, this means taking more than 5 drinks within a span of 2 hours. However, people do not recognize binge drinking as a problem because they do not do it on a daily basis. Among these are those who assume that since they are able to function well at home and at work, and that they do not drink on a daily basis, they are okay. This is irrespective of the fact that the same people are able to finish a bottle (or several) over a single weekend.

That said, binge drinking is a major problem and a serious cause for concern. This is especially when you consider the fact that overindulging in alcohol beverages is responsible for over 80,000 deaths in the United States, and has been classified as the 3rd leading cause of most preventable deaths.

In the guide below, you will learn more about binge drinking, what it constitutes, the signs of this problem, and how it is interconnected with alcoholism:

Binge Drinking And Alcoholism

To better understand binge drinking, you need to learn a little about alcoholism. According to NIAAA (the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), binge drinking is a pattern of drinking alcohol that can bring your BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) to 0.08% or more. It mostly happens when you consume 5 or more drinks (for men) or 4 or more drinks (for women) within a span of about 2 hours.

Although most binge drinkers tend to consume alcohol in relatively large quantities, not all of them can be classified as being alcohol-dependent, or alcoholics. In this sense, binge drinking is not then same as alcoholism.

While many people rely on alcoholic drinks to get over social anxiety, relieve stress, and meet other goals, their drinking does not constitute alcoholism or alcohol dependence.

Understanding Alcohol Dependence

So, exactly what is alcoholism and alcohol dependence? Basically, being alcohol dependent is more objective than being an alcoholic. This is in the sense that the individual is physiologically dependent on alcoholic beverages.

When you are alcohol dependent, therefore, it means that you might be showing the classic signs of psychological dependence on these beverages. Others are simply classified as alcoholics even though their bodies are able to function normally even without an infusion of alcohol into their bloodstream. Among these are those who are able to go for several weeks or months in between binge sessions.

The most noteworthy characteristic of a binge drinker, to this end, is their pattern of overdrinking whenever they get the opportunity to drink. Although these people are able to avoid alcohol for a significantly long period of time, they often have a hard time stopping their consumption of alcohol when they do get the chance to drink.

Consequently, there is not interrelation between alcoholism and binge drinking. However, it is difficult to define alcoholism. This is because it may involve binge drinking but not every binge drinker is an alcoholic.

Still, even those who may not be physically dependent might be emotionally dependent. As such, they may self-identify as being alcoholic. This makes the issue a subjective category of substance abuse and addiction.

However, just because binge drinking and alcoholism are not the same does not detract from the dangers and unhealthiness of the habit or the pattern. In fact, both conditions are disturbing and a cause for concern affecting all life situations and age groups - not just college kids having fun on spring break.

Additionally, while the behavior - in and of itself - does not suggest alcoholism at the first instant, it still presents an unhealthy interrelationship with alcohol over and beyond the unwillingness or inability to moderate your consumption. This may later lead to additional problems with psychological dependence and addiction, as well as physical dependence.

NIAAA reports that binge drinking refers to the consumption of between 3 and 4 alcoholic beverages in a single day, or a minimum of 15 drinks a week (for men) and 8 drinks a week for women.

However, the average binge drinker - regardless of gender - will consume close to 8 drinks in a single session. These drinks could be two large and really potent cocktails, 8 glasses of wine, or 8 beers.

If you consider the fact that it is not difficult for most people to consume a couple of large margaritas, you may soon land upon the realization that binge drinking is quite common. Today, over half of all college students in the US actually report that they binge drink on a regular basis - although the problem is pervasive across all age groups.

The CDCP (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) further reports that over 2/3rd of all binge drinking cases are found among adults aged 26 and above. Other studies also show that this problem is increasingly common in the geriatric community and among Baby Boomers.

Alcohol addiction or alcoholism (as it is commonly referred to as) is somewhat different. The condition results in the increase in tolerance to and dependence on alcohol. That said, people who binge drink several times a week may eventually be accused that they are alcoholics. Of course, you may want to remember that most alcoholics tend to be notorious binge drinkers.

Therefore, instead of thinking of alcoholism (alcohol addiction) and binge drinking (alcohol abuse) as two separate categories, it might be easier for you to instead consider the signs and symptoms of alcohol use, and apply this information in gauging where you fall on the spectrum of alcohol use.

To better understand whether you binge drink or you are an alcoholic, ask yourself whether in the past year you:

Binge Drinking: A Problem

While many - including non-alcoholics - tend to go through episodes in which they drink too much alcohol too fast (the definition of binge drinking), this does to necessarily signify that they will become physically dependent on alcohol or full alcoholics in the future.

The most important thing is to look at how often you binge drink and the effects that such behavior has on your life. You should also ask yourself whether the episodes lead to risk to others or to yourself, to crime, or to other similarly dangerous and unhealthy behavior - such as drunken driving, drug use, and casual, unprotected sex. You may additionally want to check whether your drinking patterns have been jeopardizing your professional performance and personal relationships, and if others have expressed annoyance or concern at your behavior.

Even though alcoholism and binge drinking are neither synonymous nor mutually exclusive, it does not necessarily bean that binging on alcoholism is not a worrying trend.

In the same way, binge drinking is not less harmful or an alternative to alcoholism. However, the differences between the two should not be used as the perfect justification for excessive alcohol taking. This is because binge drinking does carry some significant costs, risks, and dangers - both to the drinker as well as to those around them.

According to a fact sheet released by the CDC on binge drinking, the behavior and state of being is typically associated with a number of health problems. These include, but are not limited to:

In the same way, those who drink alcohol excessively also tend to progress in these patterns and eventually find themselves drinking more and more. In fact, the levels of alcohol consumed may also increase even without your intended them to. Therefore, even though binge drinking is not the immediate precursor to alcohol dependence and alcoholism, the episodes and binges may increase to such a level that you desire or require alcohol on a daily basis.

The Dangers Of Binge Drinking

Although binge drinking might seem like a fun and harmless activity at face value, it often leads to long-term alcohol abuse and the development of alcoholism - particularly if you get to a point where you cannot control it.

For most of those who binge drink, alcohol is a beverage that they need to enjoy by the barrel and not something that is a necessity as such. However, most of these people do not understand that excessive drinking over a short period of time may cause serious damage to the body and the mind.

More particularly, there are a variety of medical risks and problems associated with the condition - not to mention the serious risks that it may pose to your life and health, as well as to that of others. A good example is when you choose to get behind a while and drive while still inebriated.

To this end, some of the conditions that are commonly associated with the condition include, but are not limited to:

In particular, binge drinking is quite harmful to adolescents because their bodies tend to be more susceptible to the various dangerous after-effects of abusing alcohol. When the behavior progresses and becomes a common habit, it may also carry serious implications after your system gets dependent.

Although many binge drinkers do not progress to full alcoholics, some of them do unfortunately become physically, mentally, and emotionally dependent on alcohol and related substances.

Characteristics Of Binge Drinking And Alcoholism

To better understand the differences between binge drinking and alcoholism, you may want to go through the following common characteristics and traits of dependent drinkers and binge drinkers:

a) Binge Drinkers

b) Alcoholics/Dependent Drinkers


If you already suspect that your patterns of binge drinking have reached a worrying or disturbing point, you might want to seek treatment. You do not have to wait until the problem progresses to the level of alcoholism for you to benefit from medical intervention.

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