What Is Binge Drinking And How Is It Treated?

Drunk man asleep at a table. Alcoholism

It’s associated with wild college students, but it’s more prevalent and wide-ranging than many initially think.

Binge drinking. This incidence occurs when a few drinks turn into many drinks and is characterized by compulsive behavior. People wonder if binge drinkers are alcoholics or alcohol dependent or if this type of drinking can be called a disease or a mental illness.

Some questions remain highly debated, but much can be known about binge drinking.

What is binge drinking?

According to the National Institute for Alcoholism Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking can be defined as “a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl.”

When does drinking become binge drinking?

According to NIAAA, binge drinking typically occurs when women drink over four drinks and men drink over five drinks in a period of two hours.

Who is susceptible?

Binge drinking isn’t just restricted to college parties. Anyone can binge. In fact, the statistics from national surveys and as reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention can be a little staggering:

  • The greatest amount of binge drinkers are between ages 18-24.
  • People most frequently binge drink when they are 65 or above.
  • One in six adults binge drinks about four times a month.

What are the effects?

Some people wonder about the mental and emotional effects of binge drinking (including the potential for depression), and more research into this topic is needed. However, tangible health result have been observed both physically and mentally, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention puts forward some effects:

  • Binge drinking during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
  • It can lead to intentional injuries and unintentional injuries(such as becoming the victim of sexual assault or domestic violence).
  • It can present an opportunity for alcohol poisoning.

Some mental effects have also been investigated. Studies into effects on neurophysiological and neurocognitive functions have begun. A study on binge drinking in young adults indicates that some studies show binge drinkers have been found to have “neurocognitive deficits for frontal lobe processing and working memory compared with no binge alcohol drinkers.”

When should someone seek treatment?

Seeking treatment for binge drinking is often a difficult decision to reach because this habit has a unique place in society. Often engaged with at parties or among co-workers or friends, binge drinking can seem like a social activity instead of something that can develop into a harmful habit. This tendency can also remain hidden or, if known, its potential for harm can be under-emphasized.

However, once a person begins to see their relationships, ability to function at work, or ability to fulfill their responsibilities negatively affected, then treatment might be necessary. Additionally, if health is starting to be negatively affected, this can indicate that treatment might be needed.

What are my treatment options?

If binge drinking has become an issue, steps can be taken for treatment.

People struggling with binge drinking often cease drinking for a period of time in a form of alcohol “cleansing” to work towards the ability to engage in moderate use.

People can also begin meeting with a therapist who can help identify roots of the issue, deal with the personal implications of the situation, and help goals on track. In the same area of treatment options, Wright State University suggests that psychotherapy can also help; this can sometimes occur with a multidisciplinary team.

Further, finding support through family, friends, or a group of people struggling with a similar issue can help people recognize underlying issues contributing to the binging and keep them focused on their goals for change.

Medical advice from doctors can also aid in best engaging with each unique situation.

Analyzing and identifying triggers can be beneficial to overcoming binging.

Further, NIAAA highlights a study about drinking-reduction training for treatment. This treatment method involves defining goals and then engaging in self-monitoring strategies. Some of these self-monitoring activities could include setting a standard of how many drinks per week or day can be consumed, determining what situations increase the likelihood of binging (and potentially abstaining from alcohol in those situations), or restricting the type or strength of the drink.

All in all, a personalized treatment approach that involves identifying triggers and setting goals can be greatly beneficial.

When should a treatment facility be utilized?

Sometimes, treatment methods similar to those listed above can help the situation, but people can find themselves needing a little more aid in their struggle against binge drinking. If the person is unable to get drinking under control on their own, a facility can be incredibly beneficial.

Inpatient or outpatient options for individual or group therapy are often offered to most adequately meet the need where identification, replacement, and detox can be implemented.

The help of trained professionals can provide expertise and aid for sustained recovery while dealing with difficult withdrawal process that may occur along the way.

As always when considering treatment, consult your medical professional. 

Sources:

“Alcohol-Related Disorders: Psychotherapy’s Role in Effective Treatment.” Counseling and Wellness. Wright State University, 1999. Web. 29 June 2016. <https://www.wright.edu/counseling-and-wellness/workshops-and-self-help/article/alcohol-related-disorders-psychotherapys-role-in-effective-treatment>.

“Binge Drinking.” Vital Signs. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, January 2012. Web. 28 June 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/bingedrinking/>.

Connors, Gerard J. & Kimberly S. Walitzer. “Treating Problem Drinking.” National Institute of Alcohol Dependence and Alcoholism. National Institutes of Health, 1999. Web. 29 June 2016. <http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh23-2/138-143.pdf>.

Courtney, Kelley E. & John Polich. “Binge Drinking in Young Adults: Data, Definition, and Determinants.” U.S. National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health. National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases, 2009 January. Web. 28 June 2016. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2748736/>.

“Drinking Levels Defined.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Web. 28 June 2016. <https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking>.

“Facts Sheet – Binge Drinking.” Alcohol and Public Health. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 October 2015. Web. 28 June 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm>.

“Vital Signs: Binge Drinking Prevalence, Frequency, and Intensity Among Adults — United States, 2010.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 January 2012. Web. 28 June 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6101a4.htm?s_cid=mm6101a4_w>.