Have you ever wondered if you’re drinking too much, too often? Many people find themselves in the same situation, unsure when social drinking or a glass of wine after work has escalated into harmful behavior.

If you think you might be struggling with binge drinking, this article is for you. Here, we’ll discuss the definition of binge drinking and give you a guide for what is considered binge drinking. Plus, we’ll list signs of binge drinking so you can identify it early in yourself or a friend and decide on the right course for intervention.

How many drinks is considered binge drinking?

The first question most people have when drinking behavior begins to become problematic is “how many drinks is considered binge drinking?” This is a normal question to ask, as many people are able to partake in drinking socially without consequences, while others may wonder if their social drinking has escalated beyond acceptable alcohol intake.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lays out quantifiable criteria for labeling drinking as binge drinking. For these measurements, one drink is considered a 12 ounce beer, a five ounce glass of wine or a shot of distilled spirits or liquor. What counts as binge drinking may depend on the drink itself (such as a beer with a high percentage of alcohol by volume), how quickly the drink is consumed, a person’s metabolism and whether food was recently consumed.

Independent of these factors the Center for Disease Control and Prevention gives estimates for how many drinks is considered binge drinking for the average adult. For males, binge drinking is considered consuming five or more drinks on one occasion (or within a timespan of two to three hours). For females, binge drinking is considered consuming four or more drinks in the same time period.

Some individuals may not meet the requirements for binge drinking, but still have a drinking problem. The step before binge drinking is often called heavy drinking, and involves drinking more than 15 drinks per week for men and more than eight drinks per week for women.

Any drinking is considered excessive drinking for pregnant women and any persons under the age of 21, the legal drinking age.

What are binge drinking effects?

Binge drinking can have serious consequences for a person’s physical, emotional and social wellbeing. Here are some common effects.

  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Increased risk of injury (such as falls, broken bones and burns)
  • Increased risk of automobile accidents or accidents that result in fatalities
  • Higher risk of addiction and alcohol use disorder
  • Violence including sexual assault, domestic abuse and fights
  • Higher risk of sexually transmitted disease, pregnancy, miscarriage and stillbirth
  • Increased risk of cancer, heart disease, liver failure and stroke
  • Legal consequences, such as DUI, DWI or public intoxication
  • Damage to relationships
  • Trouble making friends without drinking
  • Inability to enjoy life without drinking
  • Trouble saving money or excessive spending
  • Loneliness
  • Guilt and shame
  • Job loss
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Memory and learning problems

The effects of binge drinking are serious. Even facing one or two of these consequences could cause disruption to your own life and the lives of your loved ones. Chances are, you’ll be facing many of them if you let binge drinking behavior go unchecked.

Is binge drinking alcoholism?

No, binge drinking is not alcoholism. Alcoholism describes a condition in which a person’s body is dependent on the substance in order to feel normal. Most individuals who binge drink do not experience withdrawal without the presence of alcohol in the body (withdrawal is different than a hangover). 

Drinking large volumes of alcohol is a short amount of time is a risk factor for the development of an addiction. Intervening now is a much easier task than allowing binge drinking to spiral into an addiction and then seeking treatment.

How to stop binge drinking

Binge drinking can be a hard habit to break, especially if those you spend the most time with also partake in binge drinking. Although your friends may expect you to get drunk and party with them regularly, the harm drinking causes could be irreversible.

Learning how to stop binge drinking requires time and effort and sacrificing something temporary that you desire for something you want even more. Here’s how to get over binge drinking.

1. Be aware of planning to get drunk

While occasionally people become tipsy unintentionally, it’s rare that someone becomes excessively inebriated without aiming to do so. If you find yourself planning ahead to get drunk (buying large amounts of alcohol, planning to sleep in your car), it’s a sign that over drinking has too strong of a pull on you.

2. Confide in a support person

Tell a trusted friend or family member about your intentions to avoid binge drinking. This person can help you limit your drinking or decide to stay sober with you. If you don’t have a friend who takes your wellbeing seriously, it’s time to change social groups.

3. Assess your behaviors

It can be helpful to use past regrettable behaviors to help you avoid binge drinking in the future. Journal about your desire to cut excessive drinking out of your routine and how you hope your life will change.

4. Celebrate small milestones

Stopping binge drinking behavior is tough, but celebrating progress (even if it’s small) can give you motivation to keep going. Plan some rewards for avoiding binge drinking, such as buying new workout shoes with the money you’re saving on bar tabs.

If you or someone you know is affected by binge drinking, the pattern isn’t permanent. Full healing is possible. Take care of yourself or your loved one by getting connected with treatment. At Silvermist Recovery, you can make recovery your own. Alcohol-specific, holistic treatment is available to give you the best shot at success in sobriety. Don’t let alcohol ruin your life another day, reach out today.