How to stop binge drinking is an increasingly and justifiably common concern today.
A 2015 study showed a staggering 66.7 million Americans reporting binge drinking over the preceding month.
Before we give you some actionable ways to cut out damaging drinking habits, what exactly is binge drinking?
What Is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking represents a dangerous pattern of using alcohol to extremes. While binge drinking might be part of a social night out, this hazardous gorging is far from enjoying the taste of a glass of wine. Intoxication in as brief a timeframe as possible is the only goal.
For a woman, binge drinking is defined as consuming 4 or more standard drinks within 2 hours. For males, the allowance rises to 5 drinks within the same time window.
A standard drink is:
- Beer (12oz)
- Glass of wine (5oz)
- Single shot of spirits (1.5oz)
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is any pattern of drinking that pushes your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams/percent or more.
The vast bulk of people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent and do not have alcohol use disorder. While reassuring, this does nothing to minimize the extent of the problem.
As far back as 2010, a study of excessive alcohol consumption showed binge drinking in the US cost almost $250 billion resulting from lost productivity in the workplace, alcohol-induced absence, health care expenditure, and criminal justice costs.
So, with 90% of adults who drink excessively reporting binge drinking in the previous 30 days, who is at most risk?
Who Is At Most Risk of Binge Drinking?
IN the US, binge drinking is most prevalent in the under 30s. That said, while 75% of all binge drinking incidents involve under 30s, more than half of all binge drinks are consumed by the over 35s.
More than twice as many men binge drink as women. Indeed, 4 of every 5 binge drinks are consumed by males.
Most under 21s who report drinking alcohol also binge drink. This figure is as high as 60% in college students.
While binge drinking is most prevalent in households with incomes of $75,000 and above and with higher educational levels, binge drinkers with lower educational levels and incomes consumed more binge drinks.
Now you know what binge drinking is and the sweeping extent to which it’s ravaging America, what are the consequences of bingeing on alcohol to the individual?
Binge Drinking: Effects and Dangers
Frequent episodes of binge drinking can be detrimental to your health and well-being just as surely as sustained and heavy alcohol use.
Some of the primary negative effects on the brain and body include:
- Alcohol poisoning
- Diabetes-related issues
- Fetal alcohol effects
- Heart attack
- Liver disease
- Neurological damage
- Sexual dysfunction
Binge drinking can also dramatically impair your judgment. You’re much more likely to experience on auto accident and you’re at heightened risk of legal problems for driving under the influence.
Blackouts can result in falls and accidents.
You’re much more prone to engage in risky sexual behaviors with the resultant risk of contracting an STD or falling foul of unintended pregnancy. There’s also an increased risk of sexual assault.
Binge drinking can boost the chance of you using tobacco and other drugs, too.
Visit any city center at the weekend and you’ll also see first-hand the ramifications of binge drinking in terms of violence.
If you continue to binge drink on an ongoing basis, you’re also at risk of the following:
- Alcoholic hepatitis
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Increased risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and breasts
- Irregular heartbeat
- Liver cancer
- Memory and learning impairments
- Mood changes
- Weakened heart muscle
- Weakened immune system
Another possible long-term consequence of binge drinking is the risk you’ll develop an addiction to alcohol. The younger you are when you start binge drinking, the more chance you’ll go on to develop a dependence on alcohol.
We could go on all day about the economic and personal consequences of binge drinking but we’re not here to sermonize or lecture. The most important issue today is how to stop binge drinking.
Luckily, there are many strategies you can employ to cut this excessive pattern of alcohol use from your life while still enjoying yourself and missing out on nothing.
Learning How To Quit
Just as people binge drink for different reasons, so different strategies will be effective when it comes to cutting back or quitting.
To give you as broad a base of options as possible, we’ll outline how to stop binge drinking in the following areas:
- Start by examining your drinking habits
- Honestly analyze the pros and cons of binge drinking
- Enlist the help of friends and family while making yourself accountable
- Change up your environment
- Reward yourself as you hit your goals
- Learn to recognize your triggers
- Set limits if you’re struggling to stay on track
- Implement alternative methods of coping with stress and boredom
- Space your drinks with water between alcoholic beverages
- Make it hard on yourself to drink more
- Don’t keep alcohol at home
- Consider complete abstinence
1) Start by examining your drinking habits
Before formulating the best approach to stop binge drinking, it pays to assess your drinking habits by asking yourself some searching questions.
- Do you tend to drink very quickly?
- Are you often consuming more than a moderate amount of alcohol each day? This means more than 1 standard drink for women – see above – or 2 standard drinks for men.
- Do you regularly drink for the pure purpose of getting drunk?
- Are you finding it tough to control how much you’re drinking?
- Do you find it hard to stop drinking once you get started?
- Despite the best intentions, do you find yourself drinking more than you wanted to?
- Is your tolerance to alcohol building?
By taking a frank look at your patterns of drinking, you can get a clear picture of whether your drinking is problematic and what might be the best angle to take to remedy this.
2) Honestly analyze the pros and cons of binge drinking
Whenever you’re trying to change bad habits, you’ll find times when your motivation flags.
Formulate a list of the pros and cons of binge drinking.
If you’re drinking to excess in this way, chances are the pros column will be thinly populated. Setting aside the enjoyment of socializing with friends, there’s little to be said in favor of flooding your system with alcohol.
The negative consequences are likely to be more numerous depending on the extent of the problem.
Keep this list close at hand to ensure your spirits stay lifted even if you’re tempted to buckle and head to the bar. Focus on all those drawbacks and gain strength from leaving them behind.
3) Enlist the help of friends and family while making yourself accountable
Tell your nearest and dearest about your intention to stop binge drinking. View this announcement as a positive method of staying accountable.
If you have been drinking to excess, this news is likely to be greeted positively and support.
Let your drinking friends know about your change of direction so they’re aware of why you’re no longer in that environment. If you feel you can still go to the bar without binge drinking, that’s down to you. If you would feel more comfortable staying away, don’t feel guilty about this. Do what’s right for you.
4) Change up your environment
Ask yourself where and when you most often binge drink. Who do you most frequently drink with?
It might be that a simple change of scene removes you from the risk of binge drinking. Things are not always as simple as this but it’s often a worthwhile starting point.
Even if you choose not to change your lifestyle completely, you can set certain limits to help yourself stay on track. We’ll look at that below but before that, don’t forget to use positive reinforcement…
5) Reward yourself as YOU hit your goals
Make sure to reward yourself if you make positive changes and reduce the amount and frequency of your drinking binges.
Whether that’s spending the money you’d otherwise have discharged at the bar on some new clothes or saving it toward a vacation, do what works best to keep your motivation high.
6) Learn to recognize your triggers
If you find yourself regularly drinking with the sole aim of intoxication, you should ask yourself why you’re doing this.
Is there a place, person, or emotion that makes you want to drink excessively? If so, being aware of these triggers can help you to counter them.
7) Set limits if you’re struggling to stay on track
Perhaps you don’t like the idea of removing alcohol from your life completely. There’s every chance you don’t need to anyway. As we mentioned above, just because you’re binge drinking doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dependent on alcohol or that you need to quit.
That said, if you find yourself binge drinking try only drinking on certain days or try limiting the amount you can drink. It might be possible to set yourself more responsible limits and to stick to them. Give it a go. You’ve got absolutely nothing to lose.
8) Implement alternative methods of coping with stress and boredom
Stress and boredom are both common reasons for people binge drinking. Is this the case for you?
If so, you might want to consider formulating better coping mechanisms so you’re not reliant on the bottle to provide this.
Replace a trip to the bar with a gym session. Exercise improves overall mental health significantly.
9) Space your drinks with water between alcoholic beverages
Try drinking more water than alcohol at the bar or restaurant. Since alcohol is a diuretic, it dehydrates your body. Not only can you compensate for this by interweaving water with your alcoholic drinks, you’ll also bring your alcohol consumption right down.
If that’s not enough temptation, taking plenty of water on board while you’re drinking minimizes the chance of a hangover ruining your following day.
10) Make it hard on yourself to drink more
If you struggle with discipline when you’re at the bar, try only taking enough money for a few drinks. Leave your cards at home and tell friends not to buy you drinks or coax you to stay on drinking.
This simple act alone can be remarkably effective. You can also still go out and enjoy yourself while spending substantially less.
11) Don’t keep alcohol at home
If you consistently return home and demolish a six-pack after dinner, you’re binge drinking.
By not keeping any alcohol at home, you’ll make it much harder on yourself. Depending on how much and how often you’re drinking, you might not even miss it.
12) Consider complete abstinence
Perhaps you’ve dismissed each of these tips out of hand, knowing you won’t follow through.
For many people, complete abstinence is the only workable approach once a drinking problem escalates to an unmanageable level.
Only you know if your situation calls for leaving alcohol alone completely. If so, there are plenty of resources to help you do this…
What To Do Next
Call us today at Landmark Recovery on 888-448-0302. Our goal is to help one million families over the coming century. Whether you’re wondering how to binge drinking or you want to quit completely, get in touch and we’ll help you kick start the journey to recovery.