What is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is dangerous and can be just as detrimental as daily alcoholic drinking. Binge drinking is measured as the consumption of at least five drinks in a row for men and four drinks in a row for women.
In the past decade large scale studies have been conducted regarding the use of heavy drinking. Five consecutive drinks in a row has become the standard measure for binge drinking among the college population and young adults. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), Core Institute Survey, and the National College Health Risk Behavior Survey all agree that the specific definition of binge drinking is five/four based on gender and provided equivalent alcohol-related problems for college men and women.
Alcohol Related Problems from Binge Drinking
The foregoing studies also showed that individuals who engage in binge drinking tend to drink to get drunk. All of the alcohol related problems that are associated with alcoholism accompany the binge drinker. The studies confirmed that over time the binge drinkers drinking style significantly increased, as well as the associated problems. College students living in fraternity or sorority residences experienced the following associated problems from occasional binge drinking, frequent binge drinking percentages are much higher:
- Being interrupted while studying or awakened at night (58%)
- Having to take care of drunken fellow students (50%)
- Being insulted or humiliated (29%)
- Engage in unplanned sexual activities (22.3%)
- Missing classes (30.9%)
- Doing something to regret (39.6%)
- Forgot where they were or what they did (27.2%)
- Drove after binge drinking (39.7%)
- Damaged property (8.9%)
- Getting hurt or injured (10.9%)
- Arguing with friends (23%)
Is Binge Drinking Alcoholism?
There is a belief that just because someone does not engage in daily drinking that they are not an alcoholic. However, alcoholism is not defined by the frequency of drinking alcohol but more by what happens as a result of the drinking. The American Medical Association (AMA) defines alcoholism as alcohol dependence: a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-T) R requires three of the following traits to be present for a diagnosis of alcohol dependence:
- Tolerance, meaning that a person becomes accustomed to consuming alcohol and must increase the amount in order to obtain the desired effect
- Withdrawal, meaning that a person experiences unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms when he or she does not drink alcohol
- Tendency to drink more alcohol than one intends; being unable to avoid drinking or stop drinking once started (binge drinking)
- Devoting large blocks of time to acquiring and consuming alcohol
- Unsuccessful attempts to reduce or stop alcohol use
- Choosing to use alcohol at the expense of other important tasks or activities such as work, school or family obligations
- Drinking despite evidence of negative effects on one’s physical and/or mental health
Another tool for initiating the diagnosis of alcoholism is the CAGE questionnaire. It consists of four questions, with the first letters of each key word spelling out the word CAGE. Answering yes two or more of these questions suggests an alcohol problem exists and should be addressed.