Is Binge Drinking the Same as Alcoholism?


Binge drinking is defined by the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse as a male drinking 5 or more, and a female drinking 4 or more alcoholic drinks in a 2-hour period. This type of drinking usually starts as a casual activity at parties or in celebration. Drinking alcohol is such a big part of many cultures, and can be difficult to know when it becomes a problem.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is considered the most serious form of alcohol abuse. Alcoholism is referred to as AUD, or Alcohol Use Disorder. AUD is described as an impaired ability to end or regulate alcohol use, despite its negative effects on one’s life. AUD is considered a brain disorder and can be mild, moderate, or severe.

Knowing the difference between Binge Drinking and Alcoholism

There are a few main differences between Binge Drinking and Alcoholism.  Knowing these differences could help you decide if you should seek treatment.

Binger Drinking

  • Thinking about drinking in social situations
  • Drinking to excess occasionally
  • Alcohol tolerance does not change
  • Can choose to stop
  • No physical dependence


  • Obsessive thinking about alcohol, and when you can drink next
  • Drinking consistently, even in situations when it isn’t permitted
  • Alcohol tolerance gets higher, making it harder to feel its effects
  • Can not stop drinking, even if you want to
  • Physically dependent, needing alcohol to feel normal

Understanding the Consequences of AUD

The consequences of AUD can have devastating effects on a person’s life and increase the risk of poor health. Because alcohol is a depressant, it affects the way your brain processes information. It can lead to unhealthy decision-making, impaired judgment, as well as mental illness.

Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities involve a drunk driver. If it isn’t the driver who dies, the legal and financial implications of the crash can be life-ruining.

The longer you consume alcohol regularly, the more likely it is to develop anxiety, depression, psychosis, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. Physical changes in your body can vary but the most common are physical dependence, weight gain, stroke, liver disease or cirrhosis, pancreatitis, cancer, and a weakened immune system.

What is Physical Dependence on Alcohol?

Physical dependence on alcohol is when your body needs alcohol to feel normal. When you go long periods of time without drinking, your physical symptoms can be mild to serious, depending on how much and how long you were drinking.

6 hours after your last drink you could experience anxiety, nausea, vomiting, shaky hands, sweating, headache, and/or insomnia. 12 to 48 hours after your last drink you could experience symptoms like hallucinations, or seizures. And even 48-72 hours after your last drink, you could still be feeling symptoms such as confusion, high blood pressure, excess sweating, and fever.

The physical dependence on alcohol makes it dangerous to detox alone. Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol can be fatal. Detoxing at Agape Detox Center can help you not only be safe, but more comfortable as well.

Treatment & Detox for Alcoholism Vs. Binge Drinking

Treatment & detox for Alcoholism can be different from treatment for Binge Drinking. Binge Drinking does not include physical dependencies on alcohol. Sometimes people still need to detox depending on how often they binge. Detoxing alone might work for some binge drinkers. While detoxing at a medical detox facility feels safer for others. Some binge drinkers can change their drinking habits without addiction treatment, others may benefit from a treatment facility. Figuring out why you are binge drinking is key to a lasting change in behaviors.

Because Alcoholism causes physical dependence, medically detoxing is the only safe way to detox your body. Once a detox program is completed, an individualized treatment plan will be created to help you through the addiction treatment phase of recovery. This could include inpatient or outpatient treatment, further therapies, or support groups.

The first step toward a healthier you could be calling us at Agape Detox Center to discuss your treatment needs.

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