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Many people can enjoy alcohol with few health risks. However, binge drinking can lead to immediate and long-term health risks. You can reduce your risks by drinking in moderation and developing mindful drinking strategies. You can also seek support if you are concerned about your drinking.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as drinking alcohol until the body’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level reaches 0.08% or higher. This usually occurs when consuming:
- Five or more alcoholic drinks in the span of two hours for men
- Four or more alcoholic drinks in the span of two hours for women
Your BAC may also be affected by your age, height, weight, health status, medications taken, tolerance, and what other food, liquids and drugs you’ve consumed that day.
There has not yet been sufficient research into how binge drinking thresholds should be defined for people who are transgender, gender nonconforming or intersex.
Do you know how many standard drinks you are consuming?
- A bottle of wine has five drinks.
- A pint of beer has one and a third drinks.
- A “fifth” (740 ml) of liquor has 17 drinks.
- Many mixed drinks, such as martinis and rum and cokes, contain two or three standard drinks.
A drink’s alcohol content can vary by the type, brand, or style of wine, beer or liquor. Find the Alcohol By Volume (ABV) percentage on the bottle to know how much you are drinking.
The more alcohol you have in one day and the more days you binge drink, the greater your risk for:
Any amount of drinking could be harmful for:
- People who are younger than 21
- Drinking before age 14 can increase your risk of developing alcohol use disorder.
- People who are pregnant
- Drinking alcohol while pregnant is a risk factor for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which are intellectual disabilities and birth defects associated with prenatal exposure to alcohol.
- Talk with your medical provider if you have questions or concerns about drinking while pregnant.
- People who have hepatitis or other liver diseases
- If you have hepatitis, drinking alcohol increases your risk for fibrosis, liver disease and liver cancer.
- People who have alcohol use disorder
There are various strategies you can try to avoid binge drinking:
- Take note of how much you drink, and when and where you drink more.
- Plan ahead. Set a goal for how many drinks you want to have and write it down.
- Space your drinks out over time and drink non-alcoholic drinks, such as seltzer or water, in between alcoholic drinks.
- Eat food while you are drinking.
- Participate in social activities that do not center around drinking alcohol.
- Be aware of what settings, experiences or people may trigger the urge to binge drink.
Alcohol use disorder is a chronic disease that can include the following symptoms:
- A strong, irresistible urge to drink.
- Experiencing days when you drank more or for a longer period of time than you had planned.
- Attempted many times to cut down or stop drinking.
- Blackouts (memory loss).
- The need to drink increasingly more alcohol to feel its effects.
- Spending a lot of time either drinking or hungover after drinking.
- Multiple situations where a person puts themselves in harm’s way while drinking or after drinking.
- Withdrawal symptoms when the effects of alcohol wear off, including nausea, sweating, tremors and anxiety, restlessness, hallucinations and seizures.
- Continued use of alcohol even when it is interfering with other aspects of life, including health, family, friends, work or school.
The severity of a person's disorder may be reflected by how many of the above symptoms they have experienced.
If you think drinking alcohol is affecting your life negatively, talk to a friend, family member, mental health professional or medical provider. One way to get started is to contact NYC Well for free, confidential support.
Treatment can mean stopping drinking or learning how to manage and moderate your drinking. You can get the following types of treatment and services for alcohol use disorder in NYC: