To many people, there’s not much of a difference between binge drinking and being an alcoholic. After all, if someone is an alcoholic, it makes sense that they would drink large amounts of alcohol at once. And yet, bingeing and alcoholism are not technically the same thing. Someone who binges may not necessarily be an alcoholic, and not all alcoholics binge drink. There are differences between bingeing and alcoholism. Let’s take a look at what they are.
What is Binge Drinking?
First of all, let’s take a look at what binge drinking is. Binge drinking is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as consuming enough alcohol in a short timespan to increase one’s blood alcohol content to .08 or higher. On average, this means having four drinks over the course of two hours for women and five drinks during the same amount of time for men.
As you could probably guess, you don’t need to be an alcoholic to engage in binge drinking. Even someone who has never had a drink in their life could have a few too many drinks in one sitting. They may not feel compelled to drink in most cases and may not feel inclined to drink that much again, but even someone who drinks occasionally can still engage in binge drinking.
What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is defined as the inability to control drinking, increased tolerance to alcohol, and continuing to drink despite suffering negative consequences. It’s a chronic condition that has nothing to do with how much someone drinks. What makes someone an alcoholic is that they feel the need to drink and can’t stop themselves when they do start. This does often translate into binge drinking, but it doesn’t have to.
Many alcoholics drink steadily over a long period of time without actually consuming enough alcohol at once to qualify as a binge drinker. A binge drinker could go an entire week without having a single alcoholic drink only to consume massive amounts of alcohol at a weekend party, while an alcoholic might drink steadily throughout the week despite the problems it causes.
The Dangers of Binge Drinking and Alcoholism
Even if someone isn’t an alcoholic, they can still face serious consequences from binge drinking. Simply put, drinking enough alcohol to put your BAC to more than .08 isn’t healthy. Bingeing that much alcohol can result in alcohol poisoning. A BAC of .6 and .8 is usually fatal, but the amount of alcohol one can consume safely still varies from person to person.
Even if you don’t suffer alcohol poisoning, binge drinking will still impair your balance, motor functions, memory, and judgment, all of which can have dire consequences ranging from minor injuries to sexually transmitted infections to causing an accident if you attempt to drive. Meanwhile, the dangers of alcoholism may not be as obvious to people as the problems associated with binge drinking, but they are equally horrible in other ways. Even if an alcoholic keeps drinking slowly over a longer period of time instead of bingeing, their inability to stop drinking can destroy their careers and relationships. They are also more likely to suffer from long-term health problems such as liver disease, heart disease, diabetes, and neurological problems.
Another major difference between binge drinking and alcoholism is how the problems are treated. If someone who binges isn’t an alcoholic, they can often change their behavior without outside intervention. Professional treatment can certainly help them change their habits if they’re at risk of becoming an alcoholic, but it may not be necessary.
On the other hand, alcoholism is a chronic condition that needs to be treated as such. An alcoholic often requires professional treatment to become sober and avoid a relapse. Overcoming alcoholism is certainly difficult, but it is far from impossible. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism even if binge drinking isn’t involved, there is help available. Contact us at 855-334-6120 to learn more about our treatment programs and find out which one is right for you.