How Can I Stop Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking may seem like ‘normal’ behavior to some, but this habit can eventually lead to issues such as alcoholism. Noticing the signs of binge drinking and finding treatment is key to avoid long-term problems related to alcohol abuse.
It’s Friday night, and you’re off with friends to cap off the week with some drinks. You may be feeling stressed, or have a valid reason to celebrate, and you justify having a couple more drinks. The next moment, you find yourself having more than just a couple until you spend the weekend consuming glasses of alcohol every hour.
If this scenario sounds familiar to you–you may be someone prone to binge drinking. Although some people can easily take a few sips here and then at social gatherings, there are individuals who are prone to having habitual large consumption of alcoholic drinks. To help you understand if you fit the criteria, it is important to define what binge drinking really is.
What Is Binge Drinking? Binge Drinking Defined
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking is the most common, yet most deadly alcohol habit in the United States. Scientifically, it is defined as a pattern of drinking where a person brings their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams or higher.
Wondering what binge drinking looks like? An average individual may experience this when they have 4-5 drinks every 2 hours. Most people who engage in binge drinking are not dependent on alcohol, but it can be a gateway to alcohol abuse when left untreated.
Here are other sobering facts related to binge drinking:
- For every 6 adults in the United States, one person experiences binge drinking weekly and consumes an average of 7 glasses per episode.
- Binge drinking is most common among adults who are 18-34 years old, with people who are in college or within their young adult life.
- The binge drinking habit is actually more common in people who have affluent households, but those with lower income consume more drinks even with fewer episodes.
- This habit of drinking alcohol excessively is more prevalent in men, twice as much as compared to women.
Seeing how common binge drinking is, it is also essential to educate people about its potential effects and how it ties with having an alcohol addiction.
Now is the time to seek help. Call us today.
Binge Drinking And Alcohol Abuse
Perhaps the next question to be answered is if binge drinking leads to alcohol abuse. For every type of addiction, there are internal and external factors that lead to abuse. In the case of excessively consuming alcoholic beverages, one major factor that can lead to addiction is the high concentration of alcohol that affects the brain.
In a study found in the National Institutes of Health, it was proven that long-term alcohol consumption affects the brain’s neurotransmitters. According to researchers, the introduction of high levels of alcohol affects the delicate balance of brain chemicals that regulate the way we think, how we process emotions, and even how our organs function. The disruption of this balance leads to the development of cravings, which can further grow into a full-blown addiction.
Other factors about binge drinking that lead to alcohol abuse are:
- Frequency of binge episodes: The more binge episodes, the more alcohol content that can affect the brain
- Type of drinks being consumed: Hard drinks (those which have higher alcohol proof) are likely to cause more dependency than light alcoholic drinks.
- Genetic susceptibility: Some binge drinkers are more prone to developing an addiction due to inherited traits.
- Environmental triggers:Chronic stress, relationship problems, financial stress, peer pressure, and other outside influences can cause more binge drinking episodes that lead to addiction.
It is easy to dwell on the thought that not all binge drinkers become dependent on alcohol. However, it is important to note that for every individual who binges on alcohol, there is a risk of developing this addiction. The amount of risk to develop alcohol abuse depends on each individual. If you are adamant on avoiding alcohol abuse, it is best to nip the issue from the bud by controlling binge drinking as well.
Negative Issues Associated With Binge Drinking
There is a reason why CDC labeled binge drinking as one of the “deadliest yet common” habits in Americans. There are many health, economic, and personal concerns that arise from binge drinking which not only affects the individual but also the people around them. What are some binge drinking risks everyone should know about?
There are various health concerns related to alcohol binge drinking, but these are some that truly stand out:
Alcohol toxic shock syndrome
Since binge drinkers often skip drinking alcohol for a couple of days then splurge on another period, there is a risk of having alcohol toxic shock syndrome. This is a condition where a person drinks too much alcohol in a short period of time, causing one’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to rise rapidly.
As a result, an individual may experience seizures, vomiting, confusion, irregular breathing, bluish skin, and unconsciousness. In cases where seizures are long or if a person passes out, it is already considered a medical emergency since these symptoms can be fatal.
Surprising the body with excessive amounts of alcohol can also lead to cardiovascular problems such as heart attack and stroke. According to the Stroke Association, drinking too much alcohol can cause blood pressure to increase, which potentially leads to stroke. Increased blood pressure (hypertension) is also related to heart problems such as blood vessel blockage or collapse.
Binge drinkers who are more advanced in age should always watch out for their risk of heart attack or stroke.
Mental health problems
Alcohol also exacerbates or sometimes even causes mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. Many studies show how alcohol affects the neurotransmitter balance in the brain which can dampen its ability to experience positive emotions in a non-intoxicated state.
For example, a person who binges on alcohol may be used to feeling happy only when consuming large amounts. Without these binge episodes, they may feel depressed, anxious and out-of-touch. As a result, mental health problems arise from the need to drink alcohol constantly.
In other cases, there already exist some mental health issues that trigger binge drinking. People find themselves in situations like these in their attempts to ‘self-medicate’ with mental illness. However, this may prove to be more harmful, as binge drinking causes dependency, which results in worsening mental health over time.
Other health risks of binge drinking include:
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and gestational diabetes when drinking during pregnancy
- Occupational and vehicular accidents related to binge drinking
- Violence and aggression due to binge drinking
Aside from physical and mental health issues, there is also an impact on one’s economic well-being. Binge drinkers spend about $ 1.90 a drink on average, and when this amount is quadrupled for every episode, it can lead to them spending as much as $ 1,000 more annually. For lower-income households, this can leave a huge dent on the money they bring in every year.
Not to mention, developing alcoholism can potentially increase the amount of spending an individual has on their daily dose of drinks.
Personal concerns arise from health and economic issues related to binge drinking. For example, relationship problems come when a family member or a partner disagrees with an individual’s drinking habits.
The lack of money due to an alcohol habit may also cause stress within the household. Additionally, being under the influence of alcohol leads to poor performance on daily responsibilities, leading to work problems and failure to accomplish former routines.
To fully avoid these health, economic, and personal issues related to binge drinking, self-medicating isn’t an option. It is ideal to seek professional treatment as soon as possible so that binge drinkers can avoid having an alcohol addiction.
Binge Drinking Treatment
The first step in treating alcohol binge drinking is to undergo an assessment to check if you have developed a dependency. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is diagnosed with several criteria that describe your drinking habits. When these characteristics are confirmed in yourself or a loved one, a custom-fit program will be prescribed to help in binge drinking and alcohol dependency.
Binge Drinking Assessment
There will be physical and psychological tests to evaluate your condition. Physical tests may include taking blood or urine samples and questionnaires about your current health. Psychological tests include asking your mental health background as well as questions about other related concerns.
In these assessments, it is important to be honest about your drinking habits and explaining your triggers for having binge episodes, because this will affect your course of treatment. If you are confirmed to have an alcohol dependency, you may be encouraged to go through a medical detox to help improve the outcomes of your treatment. Otherwise, you may proceed to other binge drinking treatment options available in most high-quality rehab centers.
Binge Drinking Treatment
Those with a binge drinking problem combined with alcohol dependency may undergo several evidence-based programs such as:
- 12-Step Treatment
- Holistic Treatment
- Faith-Based Treatment
- SMART Recovery
These are treatment options backed up by science to help overcome alcohol addiction. Not all treatment programs are suited for everyone, and this is why the best rehab facilities offer multiple options to help patients explore the type of approach that is suited for their needs.
As for those who fit the criteria for binge drinking but haven’t developed an alcohol dependency, the main mode of treatment is by managing episode triggers. The goals of treatment may include the following:
- Finding ways to avoid or overcome binge drinking triggers
- Provide counseling to process the psychological causes of binge drinking
- Inclusion in support groups for people going through the same journey
These goals can be met by using the same programs mentioned above, or through a combination of one-on-one counseling, group counseling, holistic therapies, psychotherapies, or faith-based approaches.
Binge Drinking: Taking It Seriously Matters
Binge drinking may sound “not as bad” as other types of addictions, but its effects can be catastrophic when left on its own. Taking this destructive habit seriously and finding treatment options should be a priority when your goal is to avoid alcohol addictions–or to potentially save a life.
- Cdc.gov – “Fact Sheets: Binge Drinking”.
- Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – “Annual Total Binge Drinks Consumed by U.S. Adults, 2015”.
- Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – “Alcohol and Neurotransmitter Interactions”.
- Psu.edu – “The Impact of Stress on Addiction”.
- Mayoclinic.org – “Alcohol Poisoning: Symptoms and causes”
- Stroke.org.uk – “Alcohol and stroke”.
- Pubs.niaaa.nih.gov – “Alcohol and Psychiatric Disorders”.
- Healthland.time.com – “Heavy Drinking Costs the U.S. $223.5 Billion Annually: CDC”
- Pubs.niaaa.nih.gov – “Alcohol’s Damaging Effects on the Brain”.
- Journalofethics.ama-assn.org – “Addiction, 12-Step Programs, and Evidentiary Standards for Ethically and Clinically Sound Treatment Recommendations: What Should Clinicians Do?”.
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