Alcoholism Binge Drinking: Telling Which is Which

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited :November 28, 
| 4 Sources

Determining the difference between the two is not difficult, it's what you do afterwards that is...

We all know or at least have some idea about what alcohol abuse is, but when it comes to alcoholism binge drinking, the line often gets blurred, and not many are able to differentiate between the two.

If you are one of those people, then this page has been written to help you discover the difference between the two, and give you pointers to more information on binge drinking and alcoholism.

Alcoholism Binge Drinking
An Introduction

The term alcohol abuse refers to the harmful or excessive use of alcohol.

Alcohol abuse can be used to refer to both cases of alcoholism and binge drinking. When you abuse alcohol, you use it in such a way that is harmful to you.

Binge drinking mostly points to the abuse of alcohol in a social or celebratory setting, while alcoholism is linked with a day-to-day dependency on alcohol. It indicates a far deeper, longstanding addiction to alcohol to the point where an alcoholic may require an intervention, detoxification, treatment, therapy/ rehab, and outside support.

For more on the treatment of alcoholism, read Alcohol Addiction Recovery.

To put it simply, the alcoholism vs. binge drinking differentiation can be made by saying that the former is a prolonged state, while binge drinking is more of a short-term (generally speaking) event.

Binge drinking is often a custom adopted by ‘weekend warriors’ or people who love to get high on nights out, during parties, and get-togethers where drinks are flowing and hangovers are aplenty- which is pretty much the norm on some weekends.

alcoholism binge drinking

Binge drinker or alcoholic? Find out by taking an alcoholism test now.

Outside the social setting, however, the majority of binge drinkers don’t abuse alcohol. Although alcoholics, indulge in binge drinking, they more often than not drink much more frequently. An alcoholic is addicted to alcohol and cannot function without it, so will always try to have alcohol in their bloodstream.

In short, not everyone who binge drinks has an AUD or alcohol use disorder, even though most alcoholics can be binge drinkers. 

"If at any point you're struggling with your sobriety, speak to one of our supportive counselors. With many having first-hand experience, they have been in your shoes. The free chat is confidential & they are available 24/7."

Alcoholism Binge Drinking
Why Binge Drinking can be Dangerous

Binge drinking may seem pretty harmless and fun at face value, but if not controlled, it can lead to alcoholism and long-term abuse.

Binge drinking is referred to as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings an individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or more. For most binge drinkers, alcohol is something to be enjoyed by the barrel rather than a necessity, but what most people don’t get is that drinking excessively within a short time frame can damage the body.

There are several medical risks associated with binge drinking, not to mention a serious risk to one’s life and that of others when a binge drinker chooses to drive in an inebriated state.

Some of the conditions associated with binge drinking are:

Binge drinking is particularly harmful to teens, whose bodies are more susceptible to the after-effects of alcohol abuse. Also, when binge drinking becomes an all too common habit rather than the result of an odd night of fun, it could increase a person’s risk of alcohol use disorder.

Though there are many binge drinkers who don’t go on to become alcoholics, there is still a significant ratio of binge drinkers who do, unfortunately, go on to become emotionally, mentally, and physically dependent on the substance.

Alcoholism Binge Drinking
Characteristics of a Binge Drinker and Alcoholic

To summarize and get a gist of the alcoholism vs. binge drinking subject, here’s a shortlist of the most common traits or characteristics of a binge drinker and a dependent drinker:

Binge Drinker
  • Usually drinks only when in company or in a social setting
  • Often binge drinks to: conform, reinforce the ‘macho’ image, celebrate an occasion, ease current stress, or to indulge in camaraderie
  • Often uses alcohol as a means to enjoy the setting/mood/occasion rather than to cope with personal struggles
  • Will more often than not suffer from a hangover the next day

  • Dependent drinker/alcoholic
  • Uses alcohol as a coping mechanism for an underlying problem
  • Finds it excruciatingly difficult to survive even a day without alcohol
  • Is more prone to depression, mood swings, and poor self-esteem
  • Tends to isolate him/herself from society or doesn’t interact with people like he/she once used to
  • Drinks to the extent of compromising relationships, professional life, and own personal well-being

If you found this page, "Alcoholism Binge Drinking" helpful, then the following may be of interest to you:

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Binge Drinking. December 30, 2019.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Drinking Levels Defined.

Maryville University. How Healthcare Administrators Are Tackling the Binge Drinking Epidemic.

Medline Plus. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

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