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Binge Drinking Vs. Alcoholism

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 4 Mar 2015 | comments*Discuss
Binge Drinking Alcoholism Alcoholic

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 Poisoning

Due 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:

  • Vomiting
  • Slowed and irregular breathing
  • Confusion
  • 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 Drinkers

Researchers 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.

Effects of Binge Drinking

Binge drinkers can suffer from many ill effects due to their pattern of alcohol use. Over time, there is the risk of cirrhosis, which is damage to the liver. They can also show problems with memory and verbal abilities. In extreme cases, their bladder can rupture due to enormous amounts of alcohol consumed and lack of awareness that their bladder is full.

Getting Help

If you are struggling with binge drinking and feel you need help, you should see your family physician to put you in touch with specialised addictions services. Binge drinking can be very damaging, physically and mentally. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can handle your life without the need for alcohol.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
@Maz. A doctor will not disclose any information regarding a patient to you, but there's nothing to prevent you from making a discreet phone call to the doctor to let him/her know of your concerns.
AlcoholIssues - 6-Mar-15 @ 2:33 PM
Is it possible to inform a relative's GP. Regarding their excessive drink problem, as this has not been disclosed recently, when being treated for high blood pressure. Drinking was curtailed for about three days, but now that the blood pressure is under control with tablets, drinking has started up again. Please help, Thankkyou
Maz - 4-Mar-15 @ 1:29 PM
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