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What Counts as Binge Drinking?

What Counts as Binge Drinking?

People often use the term binge drinking when they have consumed a large quantity of alcohol

It can be difficult to determine when casual drinking turns into binge drinking. People often use the term binge drinking when they have consumed a large quantity of alcohol. However, most people don’t know how much alcohol it takes to be considered a binge. In February of 2004, this term was assigned a definition by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) which outlines these parameters.

Defining Binge Drinking

According to the definition provided by the NIAAA, binge drinking occurs when enough alcohol has been consumed to raise a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08% or higher. But because most people do not have the equipment needed to measure the blood’s alcohol content, it is important to understand how many drinks you must consume in order to reach a BAC of 0.08%. Unfortunately, BAC simply cannot be computed based by number of drinks. Several factors must be considered, which include the following:

  • Number of drinks consumed
  • Type of drinks consumed
  • Weight of the drinker
  • Sex of the drinker
  • Time frame of consumption

So while a 100 pound man might reach a BAC of 0.08% after just two and a half drinks in an hour, a 200 pound man would have to consume five drinks within the hour to reach the same BAC. Most states include a BAC calculator or chart on their Department of Transportation websites.

Why is Binge Drinking Dangerous?

Consuming large quantities of alcohol, as occurs with binge drinking, poses several health risks to those involved. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that in 2008, there were 1,655 emergency room visits in San Diego attributed to underage alcohol abuse. Motor vehicle accidents, injuries and alcohol poisoning are all possible risks of binge drinking.

Once a person’s BAC reaches 0.08%, his judgment becomes greatly impaired. This may lead that person to believe he is safe to drive. Unfortunately, coordination and reaction time are also impaired at this level of intoxication, which can set the stage for dangerous and potentially fatal motor vehicle accidents. Injury is also a risk when binge drinking impairs a person’s judgment and coordination. For example, a binge drinking group of people may decide it would be fun to go shoot their guns in the backyard, only to end up with a firearm injury.

When a person binges on dangerous amounts of alcohol, overdose is also a possible risk. Alcohol overdose, also known as alcohol poisoning, can cause vomiting, seizures, hypothermia and unconsciousness. It may also lead to slow, shallow and irregular breathing patterns, which can ultimately deprive the body’s organs of needed oxygen.

Binge Drinking and Alcohol Addiction

In addition to motor vehicle accidents, injuries and alcohol poisoning, frequent binge drinking can eventually lead to addiction. Addiction is a serious problem that is strewn with risks and consequences. Those who have become addicted to alcohol may sacrifice their home, work or school responsibilities in order to continue binge drinking. Furthermore, they may continue drinking even when they face physical, financial, legal and social consequences. In the end, the binge drinking that led to addiction may sap the happiness and fulfillment out of the addict’s life.

Get Help for Alcohol Addiction

If you or a loved one in San Diego has become addicted to alcohol, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about alcohol addiction treatment.