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Binge Drinking: Everything You Need to Know

I bet you didn´t know that the six drinks you had at your cousin's wedding could be considered binge drinking. Unfortunately, nowadays, binge drinking has been so normalized by our society that it has become the most common and costly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States of America. This article aims to provide a complete guide to binge drinking, its dangers, and how to prevent it.

9 Minute Read | Published Aug 20 2023 | Updated Apr 29 2024 Expert Verified
Hans Mautong
Written by
Todd Ludwig
Reviewed by
Hans Mautong
Written by
Todd Ludwig
Reviewed by

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Definition of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking has recently been recognized as a massive public health problem. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines it as an episode of heavy drinking that brings alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08% or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter or even higher. This usually is achieved by having 4 to 5 drinks within 2 hours. 

Similarly, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) definition states that binge drinking is consuming five or more alcoholic drinks for males or four or more alcoholic drinks for females on the same occasion.

Prevalence of Binge Drinking

Men tend to have higher rates of binge drinking when compared to women. However, some studies suggest that 1 in 4 women have engaged in binge drinking in the last month. The 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that approximately 61 million people (21.7%) in the United States who were more than 11 years old had an episode of binge drinking during the past month.

Although binge drinking is problematic across all age groups, there are some key trends among specific groups:


The trend of binge drinking has been decreasing over the last decade among teens. However, up to 12.6% of 12th graders reported binge drinking during the last 2 weeks.

Young adults: 

Although the trend of binge drinking among people from 18 to 25 years old has also been decreasing in the last decade, it remains unacceptably high (29.5%). In fact, 49% of college students reported binge drinking in the past month. 

Older adults: 

Among people with ages 65 or older, approximately 9.7% of them reported binge drinking in the past month. This particular group has an increased risk of alcohol-related falls and exacerbations of health conditions. 

Effects of Binge Drinking on Health

Any amount of alcohol can have negative effects on your body. However, binge drinking increases the risk of acute issues. Binge drinking does not only affect your body but can also have unfavorable effects on your mental health. For example, Binge drinking often leads to acute intoxication, a well-known risk factor for suicide. The short and long-term effects that binge drinking has on your health will be explored below.

Short-Term Effects of Binge Drinking

The immediate negative consequences of binge drinking depend on several factors, such as the amount of alcohol consumed, people’s tolerance, and their underlying diseases. However, some of the most common short-term effects of binge drinking on your physical health are:

  • Inability to maintain coordination and balance

  • Nausea and Vomiting

  • Dehydration

  • Irregular heartbeats

  • Hangover symptoms

  • Sexually transmitted diseases due to unsafe sexual behaviors.

  • Acute alcohol intoxication

Similarly, the psychological effects of binge drinking can be equally bad and impairing. The most common are:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Increased risk of suicide

  • Mood changes

  • Impaired judgment

  • Memory impairment

Long-Term Effects of Binge Drinking

When binge drinking develops into a more chronic problem, it can have more long-lasting effects that could severely impact your health. Some of the most common long-term effects on your physical health are: 

  • Chronic liver disease (alcoholic hepatitis, fatty liver disease, or cirrhosis).

  • Heart problems (irregular heartbeats, heart muscle weakening, and increased risk of heart attack) 

  • Gastrointestinal issues (gastritis, pancreatitis, and increased risk for gastrointestinal cancers)

  • Debilitated immune system

  • Neurological issues (nerve damage, brain disorders, and dementia).

Additionally, the long-term effects that binge drinking has on your mental health are:

  • Addiction and Alcohol use disorder

  • Increased risk of depression and anxiety

  • Cognitive impairment

How to Stop Binge Drinking

Quitting binge drinking can be extremely challenging for people who have been doing it regularly. However, it could be achieved with strong commitment and external support. Some strategies that can help people to quit or reduce their binge drinking habits are:

Recognizing the Problem

The first step towards changing a bad habit will always be recognizing it as a problematic behavior with unfavorable effects on different dimensions of life. Acknowledging and accepting the presence of a binge drinking issue is crucial in stopping it.

Set Clear Goals

Setting clear goals and accurately defining the reasons for quitting binge drinking can provide you with additional motivation and direction to achieve your expectations. Establishing clear and strict limits to your alcohol consumption can help you stick to them. Before any social event where alcohol will be present, you must plan your strategy and stick to it with discipline to avoid consuming alcohol. 

Seeking Professional Help

Getting professional help can be necessary for people who are struggling with quitting or reducing their binge drinking. Your healthcare provider can offer counseling and therapy based on your personalized needs. Some support groups can be an additional source of assistance to quit binge drinking. The journey to recovery can sometimes be overwhelming, and asking for help when needed is fine.

Developing Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Many people have found that coping mechanisms are easy and healthy ways to reduce cravings for binge drinking. When used correctly, they can be a powerful tool in recovery. Some of these coping strategies are:

Support Groups and Resources for Binge Drinking

Several support groups, hotlines, and online resources have been developed to help people who are struggling with binge drinking. Some of the most important ones are described below.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is, without any doubt, the most widely known support group for people who are struggling with binge drinking and other alcohol-related problems. It is available worldwide and offers free meetings for its members. AA follows a 12-step program that serves as a guiding principle on how to overcome alcohol addiction and binge drinking, avoid triggers, and live a healthy life. Other important support groups are SMART recovery and Women for Sobriety (WFS).

Online Forums and Communities

Online forums and communities often allow their participants to share their experiences, challenges, and expectations of their road to recovery from binge drinking. They can also anonymously be an important source of information, support, and advice for its members. Some useful resources are:

Helplines and Hotlines

It is essential to know that help is always one phone call away through helplines and hotlines. They offer immediate and emergency assistance for people who struggle with alcohol-related problems. Some of the most widely known are:

  • Better Addiction Care Helpline.

  • National Helpline (SAMHSA)

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Helpline (Local AA chapters specific)

  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) Hopeline

  • Al-Anon Family Groups

Treatment Options for Binge Drinking

Although there are several treatment options for treating binge drinking, it is important to know that the selection of one intervention over another is often based on the individual’s needs and personal preferences. Moreover, no individual treatment option is better than a comprehensive treatment plan that includes more than one strategy.

Inpatient Rehabilitation Programs

Inpatient rehabilitation is a well-structured modality that provides intensive care for people who have severe cases of binge drinking. The program's supportive environment, specifically designed to help its users focus solely on their recovery, is very effective. Some of its characteristics include:

  • 24/7 supervision

  • Structure schedule

  • Peer support

  • Comprehensive assessment

  • Holistic treatment plan

  • Detoxification regimen

  • Follow-up planning

Outpatient Counseling and Therapy

Regular outpatient counseling and therapy with a psychotherapist or addiction counselor can offer a flexible and accessible approach for people who suffer from binge drinking. This outpatient treatment program can be tailored to the person’s needs and preferences to offer an individualized experience that addresses specific challenges. Furthermore, outpatient counseling provides ongoing support as it assists its users through all the stages of their recovery journey.

Medications for Alcohol Use Disorder

Some medications may help you to reduce alcohol cravings and alleviate the withdrawal symptoms that result from binge drinking. These medications include:

  • Naltrexone

  • Disulfiram

  • Acamprosate

  • Gabapentin

Please note that medications are most effective as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, and a healthcare provider should always prescribe them.


Binge drinking is a public health concern that is relatively common across all age groups. Consuming five or more alcoholic drinks at a social gathering is a norm nowadays; however, it can have adverse short-term and long-term effects on your health. 

Quitting binge drinking requires considerable commitment and support. Moreover, seeking professional help through support groups, outpatient counseling, inpatient rehabilitation programs, and medications are vital factors in the path to recovery. It is never too late to start. Seek help!


bullet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
"Binge Drinking"
Retrieved on April 29, 2024
bullet National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
"Drinking Levels Defined"
Retrieved on April 29, 2024
bullet Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
"National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2022"
Retrieved on April 29, 2024
bullet Healthline
"What's the Difference Between Binge Drinking and Alcohol Use Disorder?"
Retrieved on April 29, 2024
bullet National Library of Medicine
"Binge Drinking's Effects on the Body"
Retrieved on April 29, 2024
bullet National Library of Medicine
"Binge drinking: Health impact, prevalence, correlates and interventions"
Retrieved on April 29, 2024
bullet National Library of Medicine
"A Narrative Review of Current and Emerging Trends in the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder"
Retrieved on April 29, 2024

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