What Exactly is Binge Drinking and What Can You Do if You’re Worried About a Friend or Relative’s Drinking?

By  //  July 18, 2022

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Alcohol is a crucial part of many cultures and is usually associated with celebration and festivity. But not all drinking patterns are healthy or safe. In particular, binge drinking – or the excessive consumption of alcohol on a single occasion – is one of the most common and deadliest forms of alcohol abuse. 

Just in the US, over 15% of adults binge drink, and a quarter of them do so weekly. While this behavior is not always related to an underlying alcohol use disorder, it can lead to severe health, safety, interpersonal, and financial consequences. 

Here is what you need to know about binge drinking and helping a loved one who drinks excessively. 

What is Binge Drinking? Learn About This Form of Alcohol Abuse

While drinking alcoholic beverages is both legal and socially acceptable, one of the most important addiction facts to remember is that alcohol is the most abused substance in the US and the one that leads to the highest number of deaths. 

Each year, nearly 100,000 Americans die from direct or indirect alcohol-related causes, including cancer, heart disease, road crashes, and fatal accidents. But alcohol abuse isn’t always easy to recognize and can take many forms. One of the emerging – and most threatening – trends are binge (or high-intensity) drinking. 

How is High-Intensity Drinking Defined?

While it is hard to estimate how many casualties binge drinking causes, statistics show that those who binge drink are 70-93% more likely to need emergency care for alcohol-related conditions compared to non-binge-drinkers. 

But what is binge drinking? According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), binge or high-intensity drinking is defined as drinking alcohol at higher levels than the gender-specific threshold – or the level at which blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches 0.08% or more: 

 For females, the general threshold is 4+ drinks on a single occasion

For males, the general threshold is 5+ drinks on a single occasion

While the binge drinking trend has been on the rise over the past years, studies show that the prevalence of this pattern tends to peak at age 21. 

The Consequences of Binge Drinking

Like other forms of alcohol abuse, binge drinking comes with several health, safety, and financial concerns. However, high-intensity drinking appears to be particularly dangerous because it is associated with life-threatening consequences, including:



Increased likelihood of unsafe sensual behavior

Increased likelihood of fatal accidents, including falls, drowning, and road crashes

Other consequences of binge drinking include increased inflammation levels, a higher risk of pancreatitis, compromised immune functions, and a greater likelihood of chronic diseases like cancer. 

What To Do If a Friend or Relative is Dealing With High-Intensity Drinking

Helping someone with a drinking problem is never straightforward, especially without partnering with an expert. But while it might be hard to talk to someone about their binge drinking problem, the earlier you address the issue, the higher the chances of your loved one making a full recovery. Here’s what you need to know. 

Work With a Specialized Therapist and Encourage Your Loved One To Get Help

Working with specialized therapy can help you understand the best strategies to tackle a loved one’s drinking problem. Once you have assessed the severity of their alcohol use disorder, consider encouraging them to join an alcohol rehab program and find help. 

Learn to Recognize The Signs of Alcohol Abuse and Support Their Recovery

Deciding to cut back on alcohol or stop drinking altogether can be hard without understanding the extent of the issue. If you suspect that a friend or relative is battling alcohol addiction, learn more about what signs to look for – including changes in their behavior and attitude. 

Once you and your loved one become aware of the issue and its impact on your lives, continue learning about what to expect from their recovery journey, possible relapses, and the support needed. Your help and compassion will play an important role in their chances of returning to a sober life.

Take the First Step – But Choose Your Moment Wisely

Starting a conversation or planning an intervention for someone with a drinking problem are essential steps to take – but they can be a minefield. Make sure you choose a moment when you are both calm and work with a specialized therapist to find guidance.