Many people do not feel that they have an alcohol use disorder because they only drink on weekends, or when they go out with friends. Those who hold this view have the classic, societal image of “an alcoholic” living in the gutter and clinging to a paper bag. “How can I have a problem when I go to work every day… go to class on time… take care of my family and never miss a beat?” Yet many people who seem to have completely normal lives are engaging in drinking behaviors that can be very hazardous to their health: “Binge” drinking.
Binge drinking is defined by 5 or more drinks for men, and 4 or more drinks for women on a single occasion.
As I write this, sitting on the aircraft for a two hour flight and see the mini-bottles being served up, there is probably a good chance that someone will binge drink on this plane. I once sat next to a woman who amassed a collection of 5 mini-bottles on a 2-hour flight. That might not sound that impressive, except that our flight departed at 5 am. This was a business woman heading out on a trip. Her appearance and demeanor were very professional, yet I think that most would understand that her drinking on this flight was the sign of a potentially bigger problem.
Binge drinking is not only a potential sign of a larger substance use disorder (commonly referred to as addiction), but can have serious consequences of its own.
Binge drinking “primes” the brain’s neuronal pathways to desire more alcohol and decreases the brain’s ability to derive pleasure from normal life activities.
Then there are the direct consequences of one’s behavior during binge drinking. A large percentage of drunk driving accidents occur during episodes of binge drinking. Many sexual assaults occur when the victim or assailant has engaged in binge drinking. Probably all of us have a friend who has a “blacked out” story after drinking, or you may even have one of your own. If you do, you are at high risk of having a binge drinking problem.
Binge drinking can have consequences just as devastating as those of the “classic alcoholic.” Help is available and there are treatments that can help you avoid the consequences of dangerous drinking. Reach out today.