What Is Binge Drinking: Identifying The Condition

By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited: December 23, 2020 | 4 Sources

A definitive binge drink defintion

Pinning down a binge drink definition can be hard, but nobody can argue with our take on it

What is binge drinking and how can it be recognized? There is a lot of confusion when it comes to differentiating between alcoholism, social drinking, and binge drinking.

On this site we have pages on the definition of social or moderate drinking and on the characteristics of alcoholism. Now it is time to answer the question, "what is binge drinking?"

While alcoholism is an indication of a deep-rooted problem and an over-dependence on the use of alcohol as a coping mechanism, social drinking is just that- social drinking.

Social drinkers consume alcohol when they are with friends, family, co-workers, or acquaintances, mostly limiting themselves to about 4-5 drinks while in company.

The distinction between social drinkers and binge drinkers tends to get blurry because all social drinkers are not binge drinkers, though a majority of binge drinkers are social drinkers. Confused? Let's take a closer look.

What is Binge Drinking: The Definition

Binge drinking is a substantial contributor to many preventable alcohol-related injuries and deaths in the United States. annually. It was once a term used to describe the act of excessive episodic drinking (to the point of experiencing a hangover) over the course of a few days, but today, the term usually refers to alcohol abuse over a much shorter time span, usually a few hours.

The rapid consumption of alcohol in a limited time frame with the intention of getting drunk or inebriated is the basic understanding most people have of binge drinking.

For an authoritative answer to the question, "what is binge drinking?", we need to turn to more learned sources.

A technical definition of binge drinking, which was created by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), states that binge drinking is a pattern of consuming alcohol that takes an individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or beyond.

This definition has been criticized by many people, considering binge drinking can be subjective and may perhaps depend on:

  • a person's alcohol capacity,
  • a person's understanding of binge drinking based on his/her own drinking habits,
  • and the degree of intoxication that constitutes binge drinking, which is something that varies from one culture/country to another.

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

What is Binge Drinking?
Binge Drinking Is....

4 glasses of alcohol on a night out (for women) and 5 glasses (for men) is the limit for a majority of drinkers, and anything above this figure is considered to be more than enough to get someone intoxicated.

This limit is popularly known as the "5/4 definition" and is adhered to in a majority of social circles.

Binge drinking can occur in many places and for many different reasons. It is is a "practice" usually adopted to celebrate an occasion, ease stress, indulge in camaraderie and become socially acceptable in the eyes of others (especially in the case of teens and college students).

The time to get worried about binge drinking and the consequences, is when someone binge drinks regularly and does so either with the same, small group of people or alone. This can be a sign that alcohol is being used as a form of escapism. Binge drinking and excessive alcohol use could increase a person’s risk of alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Young adults in particular take to binge drinking because they want to get drunk and just let loose. It is more often than not a conscious choice, even though many who suffer from the effects of a drunken night out can't even recall some of the events that may have taken place during the excessive drinking episode.

What Is Binge Drinking?
Binge Drinking Is Not....

Binge drinking is not alcoholism, even though this practice does constitute alcohol abuse and binge drinkers are at risk of becoming alcoholics.

There are some in the addiction field who talk about binge drinking alcoholics, but this is a contradiction in terms, as a binge drinker only displays one of the four characteristics of alcohol dependence, that being loss of control.

As mentioned earlier, there's also a very fine line between binge drinking and social drinking.

A social drinker is someone who only drinks in company without exceeding the 5/4 limit (most of the time anyway) and doesn't necessarily abuse alcohol. Binge drinkers, on the other hand, do just that in a social setting (or not, as the case might be).

Can social drinkers become alcoholics? Yes. Can binge drinkers become alcoholics? Yes. The key here is to understand these two habits are just risk factors, but not necessarily pre-requisites for alcoholism and/or alcohol dependency.

It's crucial not to get too caught up on binge drinking. The United States National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends that men drink no more than four alcoholic beverages on any day and no more than 14 alcoholic drinks per week. Women should consume no more than three alcoholic drinks per day and no more than seven drinks per week.

However, most of us will binge drink at some stage or another. Christmas, anniversaries, birthday parties are all occasions when we let our hair down and maybe drink too much.

The occasional excess is O.K., it is only when we regularly binge drink, and use alcohol to suppress negative feelings and emotions that we need to stop and take stock.

Give Up Alcohol

Binge drinking is NOT alcoholism, it is possible to stop binge drinking and return to normal drinking. "Stop Drinking Alcohol" is an e-book that outlines how you can either return to normal drinking or stop altogether WITHOUT the need for the 12 steps. I highly recommend it as a viable alternative for binge drinkers wishing to cut down on their alcohol consumption.

"If you're unsure whether alcohol may be a problem, speak with one of our supportive counselors. With many having first-hand experience they understand the struggle. The free chat is confidential & they are available 24/7."

If you found this page, "What is 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


Maryville University. How Healthcare Administrators Are Tackling the Binge Drinking Epidemic. https://online.maryville.edu/blog/how-healthcare-administrators-are-tackling-the-binge-drinking-epidemic/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Binge Drinking. December 30, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Drinking Levels Defined. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking

Healthline. What Happens to Your Body When You Binge Drink. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/what-happens-to-your-body-when-you-binge-drink

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