Binge Drinking Vs. Alcoholism
There is much confusion over the definitions of alcoholism and binge drinking, with some seeing them as two completely different issues. The reality is that a binge drinker can be an alcoholic but not all alcoholics are binge drinkers.
What is Binge Drinking?Binge drinking is when someone drinks alcohol with the aim to become intoxicated by consuming a large amount of alcohol over a short period of time. It often coincides with social norms and is more prevalent in some cultures over others. Britain in particular has a heavy culture of binge drinking.
There is no agreed upon definition of exactly how many drinks constitute a binge. Some experts have set it at five or more drinks in an hour for a man or at least four drinks for a woman. Other definitions use blood alcohol concentration as a framework for whether someone is binge drinking.
It is also interesting to note that a drinker tends to put higher limits on what constitutes binge drinking in comparison with a non-drinker. In simplistic terms though, binge drinking is seen as consuming a lot of alcohol in a short period of time with the plan to become drunk.
Who is a Binge Drinker?Anyone can be a binge drinker but it is particularly prevalent in teenagers and young adults. In Britain, teens here rate in the top five for Europe when it comes to binge drinking prevalence. Often, groups of adults will even take vacations with the aim to drink excessively. Many researchers are studying Britain because it has such an immense culture of binge drinking.
Alcohol PoisoningDue to the immense amounts of alcohol often consumed when a person binge drinks, there is a very real risk of alcohol poisoning. A person who has alcohol poisoning will show symptoms such as:
- Slowed and irregular breathing
- Coma and can't be awakened
- Bluish skin and pale
If you see someone who you think may have alcohol poisoning, you must call for an ambulance right away. Another risk is that a person who has alcohol poisoning can choke on their vomit, which means it is critical for them to get help immediately.
Types of Binge DrinkersResearchers in Britain set out to categorise the many different types of binge drinkers. Their hope was to help identify those who binge drink and give the public a way to reduce risks and get help for those who need it.
For this study, researchers looked at adult binge drinkers. These people drank twice the recommended quantity of alcohol. They ended up with nine categories of drinkers.
- Conformist drinkers are those who tend to be middle-aged men who are primarily motivated by the need to belong and create structure in life.
- Boredom drinkers are just what the name suggests – they drink as a way to pass the time and feel comforted.
- Hedonistic drinkers are people who want stimulation and they crave a loss of control. They may be divorced adults who want to stand out.
- Macho drinkers tend to be men of any age. These drinkers spend time in pubs and also want to stand out.
- Depressed drinkers can be of any age or gender and they drink to gain comfort and security.
- De-stress drinkers use alcohol as a way to relax and feel in control. Such drinkers may be men or women but tend to be those in the middle-class.
- Community drinkers are those who want to fit in. They are often lower to middle-class and drink in groups.
- Border dependents are those who treat the pub like a home and spend most of their free time there, whether it's a weekend or weekday.
- Re-bonding drinkers consume alcohol as a way to stay connected to people they are close to in life.
When is Binge Drinking Alcoholism?Statistically, binge drinkers have a much higher chance of becoming an alcoholic than the rest of the population. But having one binge episode of drinking does not automatically make you an alcoholic. How frequently you binge and the effect it has on your ability to function and how you feel about yourself are more pertinent factors.
Just as binge eating is connected to a person's emotions, so too is binge drinking. You have to ask yourself how good you feel when you are not drinking in comparison to when you are. Some people find that they are planning a binge episode as a way to deal with a particularly stressful week.
Others may also find that binge drinking on the weekend leaves them feeling physically unwell, sluggish and struggling to think clearly during the week. If you are already having concerns about your binge drinking or it is affecting your relationships with others, now is the time to seek out help.