November 8, 2022
When we talk about someone having an alcohol “problem,” it does not necessarily mean they have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). A range of drinking habits can be harmful, including heavy drinking and binge drinking.
Harmful Drinking Habits
While not everyone who binge drinks or drinks heavily on occasion will develop an alcohol use disorder, this type of risky drinking behavior does increase your risk of harmful consequences, including an AUD. Here’s a look at some common risky drinking habits and how they can turn harmful.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more standard drinks for women and five or more drinks for men in about two hours.
Why is binge drinking considered harmful? One of the primary risks is that even one binge during the early weeks of pregnancy can result in fetal alcohol syndrome. Scientific research has also shown that alcohol consumption at that level can do real damage to health. It is associated with:
- Attention and memory problems
- Increased risk of injuries (sexual assault, car accidents, falls, burns, alcohol poisoning)
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Cancer (breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon)
Therefore, if you engage in binge drinking—even occasionally—you have an alcohol problem. You may not have an alcohol use disorder, but your drinking is considered hazardous.
The greatest amount of research into binge drinking has revolved around drinking habits on college campuses, where it is a common practice among 18- to 21-year-olds. Research shows that students who binge drink are more likely to:
- Damage property
- Have problems with law enforcement
- Miss more classes
- Experience more hangovers
- Become injured
According to the CDC, heavy drinking is defined as consuming 8 or more drinks per week for a woman or 15 or more drinks per week for a man. If you’re going out with friends each day of the weekend and having a few too many each time, you may be heavy drinking.
If this habit begins to cause you social, legal, or personal problems in your life, and you continue to drink in spite of the negative consequences, it’s likely time to examine your relationship with alcohol. Heavy drinking is considered alcohol abuse if you continue to drink despite the following reoccurring problems:
- Poor performance at school or work
- Neglect of your responsibilities
- Trouble with the law
- Drinking while driving
Because an alcohol use disorder is considered a progressive disease, if you do not get help for your risky drinking at this stage, you could be headed for much more severe issues.
11 symptoms of alcohol use disorders:
- Continuing to drink despite physical or psychological problems
- Beginning to crave alcohol when not drinking
- Developing a tolerance for the effects of alcohol
- Having withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
- Consuming larger amounts of alcohol over a longer period of time than intended
- Difficulty or inability to reduce alcohol use
- Spending large amounts of time obtaining, using, and recovering from alcohol use
- Alcohol use that interferes with life roles including at home, work, and school
- Giving up social, work, or recreational activities due to alcohol use
- Using alcohol in situations where it is dangerous
- Continuing to use alcohol even when it causes social and interpersonal problems
Adapted from: Verywell Mind