The Tightrope Between Binge Drinking, Heavy Drinking, and Alcohol Use Disorder

No one takes their first drink with the intention of developing a problem. Most of us just wanted to have a good time and unwind. But when does a good time stop and trouble start? In a culture where happy hours are the norm and beer commercials promise nothing short of bliss, it can be hard to tell. Here are some facts about alcohol consumption that can help you sort out the difference.


First Things First: Binge Drinking

To understand what is meant by heavy drinking, we need to first get a handle on what “binge drinking” is. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as any pattern of alcohol consumption that leads to a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, or the legal limit for driving in the United States. This is usually about 4 drinks over the span of two hours for women and 5 drinks in the same timeframe for men. As you can see, it doesn’t take much. In a 2015 survey, almost 27% of adults reported binge drinking at least once in that past month.


Heavy Drinking: The Beginning of a Habit

Now that we know how the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking, you’re probably wondering how does that relate to heavy drinking? Specific definitions vary but heavy drinking is basically a pattern of binge drinking over time. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration considers 5 episodes of binge drinking in one month to be heavy drinking. That’s four weekend parties and one Thirsty Thursday a month. The NIAAA, on the other hand, defines it as anything more than 1 drink day per week for women and 2 drinks a day per week for men.


Alcohol Use Disorder: Rolling the Dice

Common sense would say that the heavier the drinking habits, the greater the risk for Alcohol Use Disorder, or a compulsion to drink despite the negative consequences, and the statistics bear this out. The NIAAA considers anything under heavy drinking and abstaining from binge drinking to be low-risk for Alcohol Use Disorder. About 2% of people who drink at these levels have Alcohol Use Disorder. However, for binge drinkers – even those who report only one or two binge drinking episodes a month – that risk doubles. Finally, 10% of heavy drinkers report having Alcohol Use Disorder. And that number only includes those who have made the connection between their drinking and the related problems in their lives.


If you are worried that you or someone you love has crossed the line from having a good time to having a problem, take some time to look over the warning signs of Alcohol Use Disorder and give D’Amore Healthcare a call today. There’s no reason to let the problem get any worse. We’re here to help!


If you are struggling with alcohol and need treatment, contact D’Amore Healthcare in Southern California today at 714-375-1110. We heal with heart.