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6 Tips To Stop Binge Drinking

It’s one thing to go out with friends for a couple of drinks, but when “just one more” routinely becomes one too many, you might have a problem. 

Not knowing when or how to say no to another glass of wine, cocktail or beer can lead to binge drinking, the most common – and often deadly – pattern of alcohol abuse in the United States. 

What Is Binge Drinking? 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), defines binge drinking as: 

  • Five or more alcoholic drinks within two hours for men

  • Four or more alcoholic drinks within two hours for women 

Binge drinking differs from “heavy drinking,” which also involves drinking a lot but is spread out over a period of days, not hours. 

So, what does “one drink” really mean when margaritas are served in fish bowls and beers in boots? The standard drink in the United States is roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, or: 

  • 12 ounces of beer (typically 5% alcohol by volume)

  • 5 ounces of wine (typically 12% alcohol by volume)

  • 1.5 ounces distilled spirits (typically 40% alcohol by volume) 

Affecting one out of every six adults — particularly males 18 to 34 years old — binge drinking is most common in households with income over $75,000 and in college settings, where alcohol consumption might be more accessible and accepted. 

Health Risks of Binge Drinking 

Beyond the obvious hangover, binge drinking severely affects your reasoning, balance and overall health, which can then usher in a list of problems – both short and long term: 

  • Increased risk of accidents and injury, not only to the person drinking but often to bystanders. One-third of all injuries treated at trauma centers are alcohol related

  • Higher chances of contracting a sexually transmitted illness (STI)

  • Increased risk of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and suicide

  • Death or brain damage due to alcohol overdose, caused when high alcohol levels in the bloodstream strike the brain’s basic life-support functions, such as breathing, heart rate and muscle control

  • Alcohol-induced atrial arrhythmias (also known as Holiday Heart Syndrome), which can result in a heart attack or stroke

Consistent heavy or binge drinking also contributes to several long-term health issues, including:

  • Liver cancer

  • Esophageal cancer

  • Breast cancer

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Ulcers 

Tips To Stop Binge Drinking 

It’s not always easy to say no to that next drink, especially once you’ve already started and may be feeling less inhibited than usual. To stay on track and keep health concerns at bay, you’ll want to adopt a preemptive strategy

  • Shift your drinking to include alcohol-free “mocktails” or beers. Alternate your alcohol consumption with soda, juice or water.

  • Keep track of how much you are drinking. This can be done with something as simple as a tracking card that you keep in your wallet or using one of many free apps for your phone.

  • Count and measure. Be aware of standard drink sizes and the alcohol content in what you drink. Avoid having wine or beer topped off to help keep counts accurate.

  • Set weekly or monthly goals and learn how to handle urges and decline offers of another drink.

  • Avoid triggers and find healthier alternatives to drinking. Replace that cocktail after work with a walk around the lake or yoga class to unwind.

  • Seek support. Join a group such Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) or Moderation Management (MM) to help you control your misuse of alcohol. 

Binge drinking is a serious issue, but fortunately it is preventable. Follow the tips above and work with your doctor if you need more help. There are a number of medications available that can help you break unhealthy drinking habits.

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