If you read up on binge drinking, what it is, the facts, the risks and the statistics, you might be surprised to learn that you binge drink more often than you realized. Does this mean you have a drinking problem? Does it make you an alcoholic? Do you need treatment and do you need to go to rehab? These are all valid questions that are important to consider. That you are thinking critically about your drinking habits is a great start.
What Is Binge Drinking and How Common Is It?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define binge drinking as any pattern of drinking that brings your blood-alcohol concentration up to 0.08. In other words, drinking to get too drunk to drive is binge drinking. To be more specific, binging for the typical man means having five or more drinks in two hours and for the typical woman, four or more drinks in two hours. The CDC also tells us that as many as one in six American adults binge drinks four times per month on average. The average number of drinks per binge, eight, far exceeds the minimum requirement for a binge session. Some other interesting facts about binge drinking are that it is most common in households with higher incomes, men are twice as likely as women to binge drink and more than half of all alcohol consumed is consumed during a binge.
Is Binge Drinking the Same as Alcoholism?
There is no question that binge drinking is dangerous. It puts you at risk for having accidents and getting injured, for getting alcohol poisoning, for developing high blood pressure, liver disease and cardiovascular disease, and for unintended pregnancies. However, binge drinking does not equal alcoholism. While a lot of people binge drink, most are not alcoholics or dependent on alcohol. Up to 90 percent of people who drink excessively, including binge drinking, do not meet the criteria for alcoholism. An alcoholic is someone who is dependent on alcohol. If you are an alcoholic, you experience physical withdrawal symptoms when you aren’t drinking. You have totally lost control over your drinking and you continue to drink in spite of negative consequences. You have given up activities and responsibilities to drink and you spend most of your time drinking or thinking about drinking. Most binge drinkers don’t fall into this category.
Do Binge Drinkers Go to Rehab?
If you recognize binge drinking in your pattern of alcohol consumption, you are right to be concerned. It’s a dangerous way to drink, and just because it doesn’t make you an alcoholic doesn’t mean you don’t need help. Your first strategy should be to cut back. Set goals for drinking less and see if you can meet them. If you can’t meet your goals, you may need more support. Start with friends and family. Tell them that you want to cut back and ask them to watch out for you. If you still can’t cut back, you may need professional support. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go to rehab, but if you think it will help you get your life back on track, you certainly can. At the least you should see your doctor to get a recommendation for a therapist or counselor who can work with you on an outpatient basis. This professional guidance may be enough to help you learn strategies for moderating your drinking. When you can give up binging for moderation, you can count on being healthier and happier.