You may convince yourself that you don’t have a drinking problem if you don’t drink heavily every day, especially if you go several days without drinking at all. Even if you are sober most days but you engage in heavy drinking sessions, you may be a binge drinker.
Some researchers refer to this as “heavy episodic drinking.” No matter how you label it, this drinking pattern is a common form of alcoholism.
Binge drinking - heavy drinking over a short period of time - is risky behavior with many serious consequences:
- According to Harvard School of Public Health, binge drinking is defined as heavy drinking that occurs at least once in a two-week time period of time (though we have treated serious alcoholics with episodes of binge drinking that were sometimes much longer in between than two weeks). Further, you are a binge drinker if you consume a large number of drinks (five drinks for men and four drinks for women) within a short time span – often defined as about two hours.
- Binge drinkers often function normally at work and at home, but they drink heavily on special occasions or on weekends. They may refer to themselves as “Weekend Warriors.” This makes it easier to cope with the existence of a serious drinking problem.
- Binge drinkers often set out to have “just a drink or two.”
- Heavy drinkers may think they don’t have a problem if they drink only beer and wine, but beer and wine are not safer than hard liquor. One glass of wine or a 12-ounce (0,35 l) serving of beer has about the same alcohol content as a shot of liquor.
- People who engage in binge drinking tend to do embarrassing things that they regret later. This behavior often alienates friends and family.
- Drinking heavily in a short period of time means getting drunk quickly, which often leads to falls and accidents.
- Aggressive, anti-social or violent behavior is common for binge drinkers; some binge drinkers withdraw from social contacts and drink alone.
- Binge drinking leads to the same health problems as chronic alcoholism, including depression, anxiety, cardiovascular problems, increased risk of cancer and gastrointestinal problems.
- In extreme cases, binge drinkers may choke on their own vomit. They may also experience alcohol poisoning, characterized by irregular breathing, low body temperature, seizures or heart problems. Alcohol poisoning also frequently results in death.
If you think you might be a binge drinker, seek help as soon as possible. Delaying treatment only increases the chances of dangerous consequences. Treatment and therapyfor alcohol addiction can help you get back to a happy life with you in the driving seat and not the alcohol. You may wish to take our anonymous online alcoholism self-assessment.