Everyone has a different tolerance and preference for alcohol, which can make it difficult to determine how much alcohol is too much. If you are concerned about your drinking or that of someone you care about, look out for signs of binge drinking and know how to help.
Recognizing Binge Drinking
A drinking binge is considered to be the consumption of five or more drinks for men, and four or more drinks for women, in the span of about two hours. However, on average, binge drinkers consume eight drinks in a single binge episode. Binge drinking is most common among people between the ages of 18 and 25 and occurs in social situations when the individual is surrounded by peers. Older adults between the ages of 55 and 64 are the least likely to engage in binge drinking, though recent surveys find that as many as one in 10 older adults binge drinks approximately once per month. Most people who experience excessive or problematic drinking engage in binge drinking about four times per month. Binge drinking can lead to legal, medical and social problems including driving under the influence, getting into fights or committing property crimes, unplanned pregnancy or unsafe sex, contracting sexually transmitted diseases, and alcohol dependence. Though binge drinkers are not necessarily dependent on alcohol, binge drinking can lead to alcoholism if left untreated. Oftentimes individuals who are frequent binge drinkers may believe that they are expected to drink in social situations and may be afraid of what friends will say if they turn down alcohol.
How to Help
If you are concerned about a loved one’s drinking, wondering how much alcohol is too much for them — for example, men binge on alcohol twice as often as women — discuss with them your concerns about their health and safety. Binge drinkers are more likely to suffer from injuries, alcohol poisoning, high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and neurological damage. Try to understand the root of the binge drinking behavior and recommend alternative options. Many people who wish to cut back on their drinking volunteer to be the designated driver for the evening, will alternate between drinking alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, or will choose drinks with a lower alcohol percentage such as beer or a wine spritzer. If there is evidence of medical problems, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away. Consider joining a support group or 12-step program, or seek alcohol abuse treatment if you find it difficult to refrain from binge drinking. For loved ones who enjoy social drinking, it is difficult to recognize how much alcohol is too much. Keep an eye out for adverse physical and psychological effects, and approach your loved one with care and concern if you think they need help controlling their drinking. Sources Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Binge Drinking. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/bingedrinking/ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Fact Sheets – Binge Drinking. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Binge Drinking: Terminology and Patterns of Use. https://www.samhsa.gov/capt/tools-learning-resources/binge-drinking-terminology-patterns