The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as drinking enough alcohol in one sitting (about two hours) to raise blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08%.
That percentage means that for every 100 ml of blood, there is 80 mg of alcohol, which is enough to render the person unable to drive a vehicle or operate machinery safely.
Substance abuse is a serious issue that might require external help. If you or a loved one are struggling with excessive alcohol consumption, contact Curednation today to connect with a telemedicine doctor to help you on your journey to recovery.
Binge Drinking: An Overview
Binge drinking is a common phenomenon. According to a national survey conducted in 2022, 21.7% of Americans above 12 years old had at least one incident of binge drinking in the month past the survey.
This percentage is alarming since the survey included people who are below 18 years old and not even at the legal drinking age yet.
While binge drinking is a drinking disorder, it’s different from alcohol use disorder (AUD).
People who struggle with AUD find it difficult to stop drinking for long periods without exhibiting withdrawal symptoms.
Both conditions involve alcohol abuse, but binge drinking can be considered less severe, as it doesn’t involve a long-term struggle with alcohol.
Signs and Symptoms of Binge Drinking
Alcohol starts affecting a person’s alertness and judgment after only a few drinks. It’s common for alcohol to cause blurry vision, a euphoric state, and a sense of disconnection from the real world.
However, binge drinking and rapid alcohol consumption accentuate these symptoms and add others to them. These include:
- Reduced sensory perception (Dulled senses)
- Difficulty in focusing on a conversation or concentrating on a specific task
- Impaired reasoning skills that can lead to impulsivity at the slightest trigger
- Inability to understand dangerous situations if they arise
- Poor neuro-muscular coordination that manifests as impaired balance, reaction time, and vision.
Is Binge Alcoholic Behavior Dangerous?
Yes, binge drinking is dangerous and can potentially be fatal if the person decides to drive or operate heavy machinery. Binge drinking poses immediate risks and long-term risks.
Some of the immediate risks include, but aren’t limited to:
- Violence and assault, as the person under the influence may either attack someone else or fail to realize the danger of getting in a dangerous situation, potentially getting hurt in the process.
- Unwanted pregnancy and the transmission of STDs.
- Various pregnancy problems, like miscarriage, stillbirth, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
- Alcohol poisoning, as even if alcohol is legal, it can still cause toxicity in high concentrations.
- Potential accidents and crashes if driving under the influence.
The severity of the effects above depends on how much alcohol was consumed on that particular binge. However, the following long-term effects start to appear when binge alcoholism becomes a frequent habit:
- Chronic diseases like heart and liver diseases, stroke, and high blood pressure.
- Development of malignant tumors, like liver, colon, and mouth cancers.
- Learning and memory problems, as alcohol interferes with the function of brain receptors.
- The probability of alcohol dependence or addiction, since binge alcoholism may ultimately develop into alcohol use disorder (AUD).
- Development of social problems because excessive drinking can damage relationships, work environments, and academic performance for students.
In some cases, more severe side effects can occur, especially if the body is already in a weakened state before alcohol misuse, like after long periods of starvation or exhaustion. These effects include:
- Severe mental confusion.
- Continuous vomiting, which risks dehydration.
- Dangerously slow breathing (under eight breaths per minute).
- Irregular breathing, with intervals lasting up to 10 seconds between each breath taken.
- Dangerously low body temperature, often paired with pale, clammy skin.
- Seizure (in rare conditions).
- Memory blackouts (when the person forgets what happened during the period of severe intoxication).
- Alcohol poisoning, especially when the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches 0.31-0.45%, at which the levels of alcohol in the blood cause the brain to lose control over basic body functions, which can be fatal.
Treatment of Binge Alcoholic Behavior
Treatment of binge drinking begins with assessing the situation and evaluating the severity of the condition and whether the person affected is aware of it.
One may binge drink as an infrequent behavior that they may jump back into on specific occasions, like social gatherings and celebrations. Despite being risky, binge alcoholism is considered at its mildest in such scenarios. Education and awareness should be enough to stop this habit from developing further.
If this doesn’t work, these approaches can be helpful:
1. Support Groups
There are support groups for various diseases and conditions, including alcohol addiction. A person trying to fight off binge alcoholism can find support groups quite helpful.
That’s because support groups are a decent middle ground between fighting the habit alone and one-on-one therapy. These groups often include other people suffering from the same condition and are usually run by volunteers.
Knowing that the person fighting alcohol addiction or binge drinking isn’t doing so alone can be a huge mental boost to overcoming the condition.
Here are a few examples of such groups:
Mental and behavioral therapy is the next stage after support groups and another attempt to take before trying medications.
Counseling can be an effective treatment against alcohol use as long as the person struggling with binge drinking is willing to take the therapy seriously.
There are three types of therapy that a person can partake in:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT helps a person recognize the situations that may trigger their urge to drink. These situations could be difficulties, mood swings, boredom, or even special celebrations.
After identifying these situations, cognitive behavioral therapy will help the person develop plans and steps to immediately apply once a trigger is present. It also helps them deal with the emotional repercussions of relapse and apply preventative measures for future triggering events.
Motivational interviewing is often used along with cognitive behavioral therapy. It involves helping the struggling person identify the reasons for drinking.
It also elaborates on all the potential effects and possible dangers that may arise in the case of continuous drinking. This helps establish dedication and commitment.
Couples’ therapy is often applied when the drinking problem starts to hurt an existing relationship between the person and their partner. It helps to repair the bond and set clear boundaries when it comes to drinking.
Should the previous methods fail to solve the problem, medications can be the next line of treatment. Among the most common medications in treating drug and alcohol dependence is naltrexone.
It’s an opioid antagonist that is often used to treat alcohol addiction, and it works by blocking the euphoric effects that a person gets when they binge drink alcohol. In return, this reduces cravings, as the person no longer finds drinking alcohol satisfying.
Naltrexone can be taken as a daily oral tablet or a monthly intramuscular injection. This extended-release injection is often favored by patients who find it challenging to adhere to a daily medication routine.
Keep in mind that naltrexone is often used along with therapy and support groups, as the medication alone doesn’t treat the condition but rather makes alcohol less desirable for the person struggling with alcohol addiction.
Also, this medication blocks the effect of opioids, so any opioid medications like opioid painkillers should be avoided. It also has a fair share of side effects that must be considered. Check out this guide to learn more about how naltrexone can help with alcohol treatment.
Is Binge Drinking an Addiction?
No, binge drinking in itself isn’t considered an addiction, as it only involves consuming large amounts of alcohol within less than two hours but without a high frequency. However, repeated binge drinking can lead to addiction.
Does Naltrexone Cure Binge Drinking?
Naltrexone does help with overcoming the habit of binge drinking, but it doesn’t exactly ‘treat’ the condition. It’s used simultaneously with other treatment options to help the person struggling with alcoholism overcome their habit.
Can I Stop Binge Drinking on My Own?
Yes, you can. Since binge drinking doesn’t necessarily mean addiction, many people were able to recognize the potential risks that arise in the long run, which helped them stop binge drinking without therapy or medication, but with a lot of willpower.
Alcohol consumption shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s easy for a couple of glasses to turn into a full-blown binge.
With proper knowledge and understanding of the potential risks, a person can enjoy a healthy, sober life without needing alcohol.
Fortunately, it’s never too late for anyone who’s already struggling with alcohol to go back. By taking the necessary steps, anyone can revert and get rid of alcohol influence once and for all.
Take the first step towards your sobriety journey and book an appointment with Curednation today.