Binge drinking (also known as heavy episodic drinking) refers to drinking alcohol, with the intention of becoming intoxicated by means of excessive alcohol consumption for a period of time that can have a duration of a few hours, several days, or even several weeks.
The volume of alcohol ingested during an episode of binge drinking is significantly more than a user’s normal consumption over a similar period of time.
In health circles, a binge drinking episode is considered to be any occasion when an average adult consumes more than four drinks in succession over a period of two hours. The measurement varies, depending on the person’s physical size, gender and other factors, but is a reasonable guideline for most people.
Binge drinking is not formally recognised as a disorder. It is simply an expression that refers to a type of behaviour that presents a high risk for creating negative consequences and for developing alcohol use disorder.
Many individuals, who use alcohol socially, occasionally engage in a once-off binge drinking episode during a specific event or function, but the episode usually lasts for only a few hours and does not develop into a persistent pattern or problem. Binge drinking is seen as a problem only when it becomes a pattern that the person habitually or repeatedly engages in.
Binge drinking does not necessarily mean that the user has alcohol use disorder (AUD), but it is a strong indicator that the person is susceptible to developing AUD. In many cases they have already contracted AUD.
Contrary to popular opinion, people with AUD do not always drink every day. Some stay dry for relatively long periods between drinking episodes. Some do it only on weekends, during holidays, or during certain seasons of the year. Many only overdo it at parties and during festival events. They often feel they need a reason to justify it.
People who repeatedly binge drink are at increased risk for:
A person is most probably a binge drinker if they:
Once a person’s binge drinking has developed into definite alcohol use disorder, the drinking pattern may change. Alcohol causes tolerance and dependency when it is abused.
Tolerance is a property of alcohol that compels you to take more and more alcohol, at ever shorter intervals, in order to achieve the same outcome that you experienced during previous episodes.
Dependency conditions your mind and organs to become reliant on alcohol to function. If you do not sustain the growing demands of tolerancy, or if you reduce your consumption, then your nervous system and organs malfunction and you experience unpleasant, even dangerous, withdrawal symptoms.
Eventually, someone who used to binge only on certain occasions, may have to start drinking more often, due to the effects of tolerancy and dependency.