I Am a Binge Drinker… Does That Mean I’m an Alcoholic?

After denying it for a long time you’ve finally come out and said it, out loud for all to hear: “I am a binge drinker.” You deserve congratulations for accepting and speaking the truth. But here’s something you may have been wondering: is saying “I am a binge drinker,” the same as saying “I’m an alcoholic?”

The Truth about Binge Drinking and Alcoholism

In 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the results of a comprehensive health study that revealed surprising results about alcohol consumption in the United States. The data analyzed in this report covered the years 2009-2011 and was obtained from the government’s authoritative National Survey on Drug Use and Health. While one in three adult Americans were classifiable as excessive drinkers (with binging behavior included), only one in 30 met the criteria for alcohol dependence. This means just 10% of binge drinkers are alcoholics, although that number jumps to 30% of those who binge drink frequently (10 or more times per month). On the surface it may seem as if the CDC report contradicts the idea that binge drinking is a doorway to alcoholism. But the rate of alcohol dependency among heavy binge drinkers is actually 10 times the national average, and that is certainly a meaningful number. Occasional binge drinking is not a predictor of alcoholism but regular binging is a clear risk factor and, if your binge drinking is on the heavier side, you may very well be suffering from alcohol dependency.

Binge Drinking and Your Personal Safety

Your binge drinking may not be true alcoholism (the odds are in your favor), but anyone who drinks alcohol to excess on a regular or semi-regular basis is playing with fire — in more ways than one. Heavy alcohol consumption compromises judgment, increasing the likelihood you’ll do risky or dangerous things (driving while intoxicated, getting involved in fistfights, experimenting with harder drugs, etc.). Even if your binge drinking doesn’t fit the criteria for alcoholism at the moment, that doesn’t mean it won’t a year from now, or 10 years from now. Has your binge drinking pushed you over the threshold into alcoholism? The only way to know for sure is to request an evaluation by an addiction specialist, who can recommend an evidence-based course of alcohol use treatment if a drinking problem is diagnosed. If you have doubts about your alcohol consumption, you should seek expert assistance soon, before your drinking leads you into a quagmire from which you cannot escape.   Sources Centers for Disease Control: Most People Who Drink Excessively are Not Alcoholics https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p1120-excessive-driniking.html

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