Am I an Alcoholic If I Binge Drink?

Drinking alcohol is popular among many people. From daily use to only special occasions, from social to binging, they differ from moderate to unhealthy use. Binge drinking and drinking too much alcohol can raise the risks of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD). Conditions encompassed within an AUD diagnosis include those associated with alcohol addiction, alcohol abuse, and alcohol dependence.

Many people consume alcohol. Their use varies from every day to only on special occasions, from social to binging, from moderate to unhealthily. Drinking too much alcohol and binge drinking can increase your risk of developing an alcohol use disorder or AUD. An alcohol use disorder is a diagnosis that includes problems with alcohol abuse and dependency—sometimes simultaneously.


In part, the frequency, amount, and speed of alcohol consumption all contribute to someone's risk of developing alcohol use disorder. Although drinking too much alcohol and binge drinking can increase the likelihood of developing AUD, other risk factors exist, as well, as with most substance use disorders, like trauma, mental health conditions, or exposure to drinking at an early age. A family history of alcoholism can increase vulnerability to developing AUD as well.


It helps if you understand some key terminology when answering a question that correlates binge drinking to alcoholism. Almost everyone, professionals and laypeople alike, uses the term "alcoholic" to describe someone who drinks heavily. There is, however, a stigma attached to the word "alcoholic," resulting from years of accumulated cultural baggage. Therefore, the scientific community is moving away from this terminology because of its disparaging connotation. 


Today, a growing number of clinicians use person-first language when treating patients. The person-first approach could aid in purifying people's self-talk and self-image toward alcohol use, such as saying "person with alcoholism" instead of "alcoholic." The person-first concept accepts all people as unique, whole human beings and not merely their condition. 

In the United States, approximately 15 million adults meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder. If you are drinking more than you planned to or feel you can't stop, you may have a problem with alcohol use. 


While "alcoholism" may not seem offensive or disparaging to most people, it represents another antiquated term the scientific community is trying to bury. Alcoholism is a colloquial term used for the more clinically accepted term alcohol use disorder or AUD. It is a chronic medical condition marked by a. person's debilitating inability to control or stop drinking, mainly when there are consequential health, occupational and social difficulties present. 


Alcohol use disorder is a mild, moderate or severe manifestation of another clinically accepted technical term, "unhealthy alcohol use." The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines unhealthy alcohol use as when a woman consumes three drinks per occasion or seven drinks per week and when a man consumes four drinks per occasion or 14 alcoholic beverages per week.


Binge drinking is the act of consuming alcohol to the point of extreme intoxication. This practice can lead to many negative consequences such as injury, alcohol poisoning, sexual assault and more. For some people, binge drinking may be a way to cope with stress or emotions. It is important to note that binge drinkers are not always addicted to alcohol and do not always fall into the AUD category.


The Centers for Disease Control defines binge drinking as patterned drinking that increases a person's blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 g/dl, equivalent to a man consuming five or more drinks or a woman consuming four or more drinks within two hours. 


An assessment created by the World Health Organization makes it easier for a person to identify problematic drinking. It is AUDIT, the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test. Individuals use AUDIT in various settings. The 10-question questionnaire identifies dangerous drinking habits and takes less than five minutes to complete. Visit for the assessment, next steps and options. 


Many people struggle with alcohol use. Sobriety is a goal for some, while moderation is the goal for others. Recent research has found that inpatient, outpatient and aftercare treatment for AUD are all effective. If you have worries about your drinking habits, it may be time you consulted clinical experts who will treat you as an individual, not as a drinking problem.

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