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Binge Drinking

You might not realize that it doesn’t take many drinks to qualify as a binge. With binge drinking on the rise, it’s important to learn more about what binge drinking is and how it can impact your health and safety.

What is binge drinking?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), binge drinking is “a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08%—or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter—or more.” What does this break down to?

  • Four or more drinks for women over the course of 2 hours
  • Five or more drinks for men over the course of 2 hours

Binge drinking and health

While drinking alcohol in any amount comes with risk, binge drinking increases the risk of a wide range of health-related issues, including:

  • Blackouts
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Overdoses
  • Unsafe sexual behavior
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) 
  • Sexual assault
  • Unintentional pregnancies
  • Falls, burns, and other injuries
  • Drownings
  • Car crashes  
  • Physical, sexual, and emotional violence 
  • Death
  • Unsafe interaction with medication

Even just one binge can harm the immune system, leading to acute pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. If binge drinking continues, it will impact the liver and can increase cancer risk, including head and neck, esophageal, liver, breast, and colorectal cancers. Learn more about the health impacts of drinking for a long period of time.

Who binge drinks?

Binge drinking can impact anyone and happen anywhere. However, binges are frequently associated with group activities such as hazing rituals and fraternity and sorority events. Research has also shown that binge drinking is more common among younger adults ages 18-34 and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

How does binge drinking impact your safety?

When alcohol is consumed on its own or combined with other substances, safety can become an issue because judgment and decision making are impaired. When binge drinking is involved, safety concerns can become even more serious:

  • Impaired driving (cars, boats, ATVs, heavy machinery, etc.) can lead to serious injury or death.
  • Blacking out is more likely when excessive amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short period of time.
  • Drowning occurs more often as those who are intoxicated are more likely to take more risks and not be aware of the dangers around bodies of water.
  • Alcohol poisoning or alcohol overdose occurs when someone drinks too much alcohol too quickly, over a short period of time or excessively over a few days, and can lead to death.
  • Sexual assault is more likely to occur, especially on college campuses.
  • Alcohol misuse can worsen mental health and is associated with suicidal behaviors.

Alcohol does not cause sexual assault, but it can be a contributing factor. Research has found that alcohol is involved in about half of sexual assaults on college campuses with the perpetrator, the victim, or both, consuming alcohol.

Help for binge drinking

It’s okay to need help to control or stop drinking. There are many resources and supports to help those struggling with alcohol use, from treatment options to recovery groups and meetings, and beyond:

  • Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Access Line 1-800-563-4086 offers 24/7 support for recovery and treatment resources.
  • Connecticut Community Addiction Recovery (CCAR) telephone support program
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: call  1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. To find one near you:
  • If you are a family member or friend of someone with an alcohol use issue, consider attending an Al-Anon or Alateen meeting for support.
  • Healthcare providers. Speak to your primary care doctor or other healthcare provider about your drinking. Ask about behavioral treatments, medications, and mutual support groups.

For a list of even more resources, visit our Tips for Cutting Back page here.