The Next Round: What happens after you change your drinking?

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what is binge drinking

What is binge drinking and how do I deal with it?

Binge drinking is often classed as drinking over a certain amount of alcohol – roughly 2-3 drinks – in one go or drinking to excess to become intoxicated.  For many, our problem drinking often results in overindulging to the point of becoming drunk.  Taking a few days off is great, but when the binge starts to take over weekends, it might be time to take a look at how to break the cycle. So how is binge drinking different from other types of problem drinking?

It’s ‘just’ drinking too much, right?

I’m not a daily drinker but a binge drinker who blacks out once a week or every two weeks.

Club Soda member

We’re all guilty of going a bit overboard now and again, and when we think about problem drinking, we often think about drinking excessively every day. So we may not realise that drinking lots, even if there’s a few days of abstinence in between, can be just as problematic. The difference between habitual drinking and binge drinking is that you might not drink every day, but the amount that you consume when you do drink may be way more than you’re comfortable with.  

How much is too much?

Broadly speaking, 2-3 glasses of ordinary wine or 3-4 pints of beer is the universally agreed maximum consumption that we should drink per day.  Each government has slightly differing statistics, but generally, more than 2 large drinks are seen as crossing the moderate barrier.

How much alcohol will affect one person can also differ greatly from the next; a 5ft woman drinking two large glasses of 12% wine could become intoxicated far quicker than a 6ft man drinking the same amount.  Our builds affect how quickly we are able to metabolise alcohol, meaning that it’s also an individual response, and sticking to the guidelines might not be helpful for everyone.

‘Get it down you’

The UK government states that binge drinking is classified as being a state in which an individual’s blood-alcohol level dramatically increases to the point of drunkenness.  The speed at which alcohol is consumed can alter its effects, meaning that if you ‘down’ your drinks, you’re likely to get drunk faster, and therefore lose self-control faster, too.  Downing drinks just to get drunk is another red flag that maybe binge drinking is a problem for you.

But I don’t drink every day…

I had not realized just how much I was drinking until I wasn’t. It didn’t take long to realize I was going to need encouragement. Also didn’t take long to realize that said encouragement wasn’t going to come from those who thought I was crazy because ‘you’re not an alcoholic’.

Club Soda member

Binge drinking is a form of problem drinking.  Because of the gaps between drinking sessions, though, it can be harder for binge drinkers to identify a destructive pattern.  It’s easy to tell ourselves that if we’ve not had a drink all week, then it’s not really a problem.  But losing control on the weekend, every weekend can be a form of binge drinking.  If you’re not sure, then ask yourself

‘Does my drinking cause me problems when I choose to drink?’

Why we overdo it

Nobody drinks way too much way too quickly because they’re enjoying themselves.  There’s usually a reason for bingeing: someone broke our heart, we had a hard day at work, we had a row with our partner, we’re lonely, we’re stressed, we’re under pressure.  There are several types of drinking associated with overindulging, such as

  • stress-related binge drinking: when we want to distract ourselves from pressure
  • social binge drinking: when we’re in a situation we don’t feel comfortable in, or we’re under pressure from our friends to get drunk
  • Mood-related binge drinking: when we crave comfort from overwhelming emotions

Problems caused by binge drinking

My partner is trying to moderate but can’t seem to let go of his binge drinking habit – when he slips he binges big time. He still functions the next day and usually stays sober the next night or two, or even 10 until the next binge. I’m worried about him – he can’t keep this up without serious health consequences.

Club Soda member

As with most problem drinking, binge drinking can have negative effects on our mental and physical health. A rapid increase in blood alcohol levels can cause

  • accidents
  • cause you to take unnecessary risks
  • cause you to lose self-control
  • can affect your mood and mental health
  • can affect your memory, recall, and attention span

How to change our binge drinking

If you think that you’ve had one three-day hangover too many, there are many ways in which you can change your drinking:

  • Face the emotional situations head-on, before drinking to excess becomes the coping mechanism.  Could you talk to friends, family, or a therapist in order to resolve the anxieties that cause you to binge?
  • Make a plan for your drinking days.  Maybe swap your usual knock-back drink for something you would rather sip, or plan to only have two or three alcoholic drinks, and plan some non-alcoholic options in between.  You could even be the designated driver.
  • Try moderation.  You could start by staying within the government’s guidelines of 2-3 drinks, or allow yourself one really nice drink but stop as soon as you start to feel tipsy.
  • Get help with your binge drinking.  If you feel that this is a problem that has started to get out of control and you need a little guidance, then we’ve got some really great free courses that help you examine the thoughts, behaviours, and feelings behind your binge drinking, and how best to get you to a place where your drinking is no longer a problem for you.

Whatever your approach is to binge drinking, you’re not alone – read Stephen’s story about how binge drinking flung him into a deep depression, and how he managed to turn his life around. 

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