Binge Drinking: What It Is & The Risks

While some may drink alcohol in moderation (which is considered 2 drinks or less a day for men and 1 drink or less a day for women), others may engage in excessive alcohol use, such as binge drinking, which can be both dangerous and deadly.1,2

This page will explore binge drinking in further detail, including the effects and dangers of it, as well as the risk of alcohol poisoning and how to seek professional alcohol treatment.

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that causes the blood alcohol concentration to reach 0.08% or higher.1 This occurs when:1,3

  • A woman drinks 4 or more standard alcoholic beverages within a period of about two hours.
  • A man consumes 5 or more standard alcoholic beverages within that same timeframe.

Standard drinks are defined as the following:4

  • 5 fluid ounces of table wine
  • 3-4 fluid ounces of fortified wine
  • 2-3 fluid ounces of cordial, liqueur, or aperitif
  • 12 fluid ounces of regular beer with about 5% alcohol content
  • 8-7 fluid ounces of malt liquor or flavored malt beverages with about 7% alcohol content
  • 5 fluid ounces of distilled spirits, such as gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey

People from various types of backgrounds engage in binge drinking, however it is most prevalent in college students, the elderly population, and among women.3 Studies show that nearly 50% of college students and roughly 12% of elderly individuals have engaged in binge drinking within the past month.3,5 Additionally, 1 in 4 women also binge drank within the past month.3,5

Effects and Dangers of Binge Drinking

There are a variety of effects and dangers associated with binge drinking that can create complications throughout all areas of a person’s life. Some of the effects that can occur as a result of binge drinking can include:6

  • Blackouts.
  • Alcohol poisoning.
  • Violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, or intimate partner violence.
  • Risky sexual behaviors (some of which can result in more long-term repercussions, such as the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases or unintended pregnancies).
  • Complications related to pregnancy, such as miscarriage and stillbirth.
  • Accidents such as falls or motor vehicle accidents.

Binge drinking is a problematic pattern of drinking and can occur as part of a larger pattern of chronic, excessive alcohol misuse. Someone who engages in continual heavy alcohol misuse can experience further potential dangers that can have lasting effects. These effects can include:3,7,8

  • Liver disease.
  • Compromised function of the immune system (even after only one binge drinking episode).
  • Acute pancreatitis (in individuals with underlying pancreatic damage).
  • Cardiovascular complications, including stroke, heart disease, and heart attack.
  • Cancers, including breast cancer, colon cancer, and esophageal cancer.
  • Increased risk for suffering unintentional injuries, such as those sustained from motor vehicle accidents, falls, or burns.

While the majority of those who engage in excessive drinking (such as binge drinking) are not typically dependent on alcohol or have an alcohol use disorder,9 continuing a pattern of binge drinking can increase one’s risk for developing alcohol use disorder.10

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is one of the most significant dangers associated with binge drinking, as it can quickly lead to fatality.4 This type of poisoning occurs when the amount of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream becomes so high that critical areas of the brain that control basic functions (such as breathing, temperature control, and heart rate) begin to fail.4

Many factors can influence how quickly a person can go from drinking to the point of impairment to drinking to the point of experiencing life-threatening symptoms.4 These factors can include a person’s age, gender, level of tolerance and speed of drinking, as well as how much food they have eaten and if they are on any medications.4

Someone who is experiencing alcohol poisoning can develop several symptoms, some of which include the following:4

  • Confusion
  • Struggling to remain conscious
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Slow heart rate
  • Clammy skin
  • Dulled responses (e.g., no gag reflex, which can cause choking)
  • Low body temperature

It is imperative to seek emergency medical care by calling 911 in the event of alcohol poisoning. Doing so can potentially save a person’s life, as those who are trained to provide the appropriate care can do so, such as by ensuring that the airway is clear and secure, administering the appropriate fluids and vitamins, and providing constant monitoring to mitigate any further health-related issues that may develop.11

Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Rhode Island

Receiving treatment at our inpatient rehab in Rhode Island can be the ultimate life-saving measure if you or someone you love are struggling with alcohol misuse or addiction. Contact our facility right now to learn more about the levels of care we provide and get admitted to rehab. Our admission navigators can answer any questions you have about the levels of addiction treatment we provide, insurance coverage for addiction treatment, how to pay for rehab, and much more.

Do not wait any longer. Get started by having your insurance verified with us right now. Simply fill out our secure online and get results within minutes.

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