Are Binge Drinkers Addicted To Alcohol?
Binge drinking is a term used to describe heavy drinking. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), binge drinking means having enough drinks in a two hour period to achieve a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08, a level at which a person is considered to be intoxicated. Binge drinking is increasingly common, but does it make a person an alcoholic or addicted to alcohol? The answer is not so simple.
The Risks Of Binge Drinking
For women, binge drinking typically means having four or more drinks in a two-hour period. For men, it means having five or more drinks. Consuming this much alcohol in one sitting, or more, is detrimental to your health. And if you drink this way, you are not alone. One in every six adults in the U.S. binges four times a month. Each binge includes eight drinks on average. This is a lot of alcohol.
Binge drinking can lead to a number of health problems, not least of which is dependence on alcohol, or alcoholism. It can also cause:
- liver disease
- high blood pressure
- heart attack
- neurological damage
- complications if you have diabetes
Binge drinking also leads to:
- accidents and injuries
- alcohol poisoning
- fetal alcohol syndrome
- unintended pregnancies
- problems with relationships
- strain on career and finances
What Is Alcoholism?
So does binge drinking make you an alcoholic? Not necessarily. Addictive disorders are most often diagnosed based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The fifth version of this manual recently came out with new criteria for alcohol addiction. The fourth edition listed alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence (alcoholism) as two separate disorders. The fifth edition merged the two into one disorder: alcohol use disorder. A person can be diagnosed as having a mild, moderate or severe case of alcohol use disorder.
According to the fifth edition, to have an alcohol use disorder you must have two of the eleven symptoms listed in the manual. Having two or three symptoms represents a mild case. Binge drinking is not listed as a symptom, but several of the symptoms could result from binge drinking. For instance, one symptom is drinking more than you intended to on a particular occasion. Many binge drinkers could claim doing this. Another symptom is trying to drink less, but failing. Again, this can happen with binge drinking.
There are several other symptoms that could go hand-in-hand with binge drinking. This means that if you binge drink and end up having two of these symptoms, you could be diagnosed as having mild alcohol use disorder. If the risks of binge drinking are not enough to make you want to slow down, maybe this fact is.
Stopping Binge Drinking
Moderate drinking is not harmful to your health, unless you have specific conditions that are exacerbated by alcohol. If you binge drink regularly, consider cutting back to moderate drinking levels. If you don’t, you put yourself at risk for a number of health problems. Not least of these is alcohol use disorder. If you could qualify for a diagnosis of mild now, you are on the path to having moderate or severe alcohol use disorder later.
Being a moderate drinker means having no more than three drinks per day and seven per week if you are a woman. If you are a man, have no more than four drinks per day and 14 in a week. Cutting back is important for your health, but if you find you can’t, you may need to get help. Rely on friends and family to support you in drinking less, or find a support group to join. You don’t need to be a full-blown alcoholic to ask for help. Doing so now could save you disastrous consequences in the future.
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