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What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is a hazardous form of alcohol use that may lead to an alcohol use disorder. This guide explains binge drinking and how to find help.

Excessive Drinking

Binge drinking can be an immensely harmful form of alcohol use. Excessive drinking of any kind can lead to the development of an alcohol use disorder, and the only way to prevent this is to stop binge drinking. This article discusses the causes and symptoms of binge drinking disorder and provides resources for people to get help.

Defining Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is a form of excessive drinking in which people consume several drinks in one drinking session. For males, binge drinking is defined as drinking five or more drinks per drinking occasion. For females, drinking four or more drinks per drinking occasion is considered binge drinking.[1]

While some people may be able to occasionally binge drink without serious consequences, there are several risks of binge drinking. The primary risk is the development of an alcohol use disorder, which is often mistakenly labeled as a binge drinking disorder. But the dangers of binge drinking extend far beyond this serious consequence alone.

How Common Is Binge Drinking?

Recent survey estimates suggest that nearly 24% of people in the United States ages 12 and older participated in binge drinking in the last year. Excessive drinking is most common among young adults, particularly those in college.[2]

Binge Drinking and Alcoholism: Is Binge Drinking Alcoholism?

Binge drinking does not necessarily imply an alcohol use disorder but frequently develops into one. The American Psychiatric Association doesn’t specifically recognize binge drinking disorder as a diagnosis, though many binge drinkers will fall into the larger umbrella of having an alcohol use disorder.[3]

Diagnosis of Alcohol Use Disorder

Several binge drinking symptoms must be present to be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder. These include:

  • Drinking more than intended or for longer than intended
  • An inability to cut down or stop drinking on your own
  • Tolerance, meaning you need to drink more to get the desired effect
  • Withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly quit drinking
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies outside of alcohol use
  • Continued drinking despite harmful consequences

These and a few other symptoms indicate that a binge drinking problem has developed into a full-blown alcohol use disorder.

Binge Drinking Causes and Risk Factors

Certain situations and environments may lead people to binge drink. While these aren’t necessarily causes of binge drinking, they may increase the likelihood that binge drinking occurs. In addition, several risk factors predispose people to excessive drinking.

Sociological Factors

Social pressures are a large component of binge drinking, particularly among college students. In one study, researchers found that, on average, college students had inflated perspectives of how much their fellow students drank. When provided with the actual drinking rates on campus, they lowered their drinking as a result.[4]

The results from this study show the powerful effect of peer pressure and cultural expectations on binge drinking. Particularly in college, many people believe that binge drinking is the norm — due in no small part to the normalization of the practice by movies, television, and advertisement.

Psychological Factors

People experiencing mental health difficulties are more likely to partake in binge drinking. People who struggle with anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders may drink to cope with their symptoms as a form of self-medication. As such, it is pivotal in binge drinking treatment to treat the underlying mental illnesses that so frequently co-occur with binge drinking.

Binge Drinking Signs and Symptoms

Binge drinking symptoms are easy to spot, provided you see the individual shortly after the event (when the individual consumes an overabundance of alcohol). They may show such symptoms as:

  • Hangover
  • Headache
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Smelling like alcohol
  • Unsteadiness on their feet
  • Short-term memory loss

The effects of binge drinking may pass relatively quickly, and it could be hard to spot binge drinking after a day or two has passed. It is important to be receptive to the indications of binge drinking as they happen in order to effectively administer treatment.

Binge Drinking Health Risks and Side Effects

The side effects of binge drinking can be severe and are sometimes life-threatening. Binge drinking health risks must be taken seriously, particularly among younger adults at the highest risk. Some binge drinking effects include:

  • Memory loss
  • Accidental injury
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Hangover
  • Liver damage

The only way to prevent these side effects is to stop binge drinking or find binge drinking treatment if you cannot stop on your own.

Treatment for Binge Drinking and Alcoholism

excessive drinking 

Treatment for binge drinking and alcohol use disorder can help people who struggle to stop drinking independently. There are several effective treatment options available, making binge drinking recovery more accessible than ever before. 

Treatment Opportunities

Available treatment options include:

All these treatment options are offered at professional addiction treatment centers. Together, they can help people work through the physical effects of withdrawal, learn the tools and skills required for a lifetime in recovery, and help people live healthier and more productive lives.

Find Help for Binge Drinking at Genesis Recovery

Genesis Recovery in San Diego, California, can help people struggling with alcohol use find the help they need to recover. With extensive treatment options across the entire continuum of care, anybody can learn the skills needed to achieve abstinence. 

Genesis Recovery is a spiritually centered program that emphasizes the 12-Step model of recovery. We use the 12 Steps because they work and have already helped millions of people recover. Our experience has shown that anyone can achieve lasting recovery, no matter how difficult it seems, provided they get the professional support they need from addiction services. Don’t delay treatment any longer. Reach out to Genesis Recovery today.


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