Binge Drinking vs Alcoholism: What is the Difference?

woman struggling with alcohol

When it comes to alcoholism, it can be easy to excuse excessive drinking as just blowing off steam or having fun. In fact, today’s culture often frames binge drinking as a right of passage. Many people wonder what the difference is between binge drinking vs. alcoholism. Neither is healthy and both can cause great physical and emotional damage. Once alcohol consumption reaches high levels and happens regularly, the person needs to find out if they have reached the point of needing formal treatment. 

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks being consumed in one sitting by men and four or more drinks by women. Binge drinking is the most common type of excessive alcohol use. This activity can be harmful and result in dangerous events, including drunk driving, engaging in risky behavior, and alcohol poisoning. 

Binge drinking can happen in several settings. These include when part of a social outing, a college party, a sporting event, or at home when the person is alone. The person consumes a large amount of alcohol, usually specifically to achieve a feeling of being drunk. They may do it as part of a celebration, to soothe themselves when something bad has happened, or out of boredom. A person may also binge drink in order to relieve symptoms of mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in six adults in the U.S. binge drinks. A quarter of those engages in binge drinking at least once a week. Binge drinking falls under the heading of excessive drinking and accounts for more than 90% of episodes of drinking excessively.

Binge drinking happens most often among those aged 18-34. What may start out as peer pressure to binge drink in college can escalate into alcoholism. Men are almost twice as likely to binge drink as women. Of those who binge drink, one out of four of them consumes eight drinks or more per session. Even among high school students who binge drink, 44% also consumed eight drinks or more during one occasion. 

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a condition in which a person abuses alcohol and finds themselves unable to stop drinking without professional help. It is also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD can be diagnosed in three categories: mild, moderate, and severe. Many people who are alcoholics find it difficult to get through a single day without drinking. Alcohol consumes their lives, often causing physical and emotional damage that increases as the addiction continues. 

Approximately 15 million adults in the U.S. are alcoholics. Someone who suffers from alcoholism finds they constantly think about alcohol and often put drinking above job, school, and family responsibilities. They spend a large amount of money on alcohol and often isolate themselves in order to drink. The person may try to stop drinking on their own but finds that they cannot do so. After even as little as a few hours without a drink, withdrawal symptoms can set in. These are emotional and physical in nature and typically drive a person to start drinking again in order to relieve them. 

Binge Drinking vs. Alcoholism

Someone who binge drinks can mostly control how often they drink. They may plan times to binge drink, such as the weekend, a night out, or a celebratory event, but otherwise get through several days without the need to consume alcohol. On the other hand, an alcoholic has great difficulty getting through a day without drinking. For them, addiction has set in and they drink to keep withdrawal symptoms from happening. While someone who binge drinks is not necessarily an alcoholic, it increases their risk of becoming one. 

Whether someone engages in binge drinking vs. alcoholism, they put their health at risk. Excessive alcohol use caused more than 140,000 deaths in the United States each year from 2015–2019. That’s more than 380 deaths per day, which shows up the amount of damage that can be done whenever someone cannot maintain a healthy relationship with alcohol.

What Kind of Treatment Helps Alcohol Abuse?

Treatment for alcohol abuse can come in several forms. The first step is going to detox, oftenwise known as rehab. Detox helps a person get through the first several days of not drinking, which allows their bodies to release the toxins built up during addiction. After detox, outpatient programs can provide the perfect next step in treatment. Outpatient programs range from regular outpatient to partial hospitalization programs including alcohol rehab in Tampa.

Addiction treatment experts assess each person who comes to the program in order to determine which outpatient program fits their needs. Attendance ranges from two to seven days a week. Sessions take place during the day, which allows the individual to still live at home and take care of responsibilities in their home lives and careers. Whether the problem entails binge drinking vs alcoholism, outpatient care can help a person stop drinking and become sober for life. 

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Alcoholism changes everything about a person’s life and keeps them from not only reaching their goals but accomplishing the tasks of day-to-day life. If you have reached the point where you know your alcohol abuse must be addressed, you want an evidence-based program that helps you turn your life around. Tampa Bay Recovery Center provides several types of outpatient care programs that fit the needs of your lifestyle. Our staff has years of experience treating alcoholism and using multi-disciplinary therapy plans. We understand how to teach people to become sober for life.

For more information about our alcoholism treatment program, visit our admissions page now. Help is just one step away.