What are the differences between binge drinking and alcoholism?

What is the difference between binge drinking and alcoholism

Many times people confuse binge drinking and alcoholism, but they are not the same. 

What is the same is that first responders tend to suffer from both due to being exposed to stressful and disturbing critical situations regularly.

As you may have experienced, alcohol is almost a part of the first responder culture, which is why many of our public safety professionals suffer from alcohol abuse. 

Whether you may be suffering from binge drinking or alcoholism, it’s imperative to note that just because you may be an alcoholic does not mean you are a binge drinker; and if you are a binge drinker, it does not mean you are an alcoholic. 

“One of the key differences between binge drinking and alcoholism is that typically binge drinkers can get through the week without consuming alcohol, whereas alcoholics need it just to get by. It’s imperative to catch both of these conditions in their early stages as the probability for success will be much higher.” 

First Responder Wellness’ Founder Dr. Stephen Odom

While both of these conditions are considered alcohol abuse disorders and many of their signs are the same, the danger lies in the potential for a crossover; it’s a slippery slope.

What is binge drinking?

Binge drinking is defined as men drinking five or more alcoholic beverages and women drinking four or more alcoholic drinks in two hours or less, with a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration, more than four times per month.

Signs of binge drinking:

  • Continuously drinking more than planned
  • Consuming alcohol early in the day
  • Difficulty slowing down or stopping after you begin
  • Experiencing blackouts, memory loss
  • Showcasing risky behavior
  • Sacrificing responsibilities to drink alcohol
  • Family and friends expressing concern

When a person begins to take notice of trends where their binge drinking begins to affect their home, work, or school life, even if they are a functioning binge drinker, it’s recommended to seek help.

What is alcoholism?

Alcoholism is the most severe type of alcohol abuse and begins when a person cannot control their consumption habits. The biggest sign of alcoholism is that people feel as if they cannot function without it. 

Signs of alcoholism include: 

  • Inability to control consumption 
  • Craving alcohol 
  • Unusual behavior after drinking
  • Sacrificing responsibilities to drink alcohol
  • Spending lots of money on alcohol per month
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down
  • Developing a high tolerance to alcohol
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Senselessly consuming alcohol before and during activities

With alcoholism, the combination of short and long-term effects will negatively impact a person’s perception, cognition, and judgment. For first responders, this can be detrimental to their ability to perform their job well, putting themselves and others at risk. 

If you experience these and other problems due to your drinking and cannot quit, you will need professional help to avoid a dangerous situation and prevent further harm from occurring.

Click here to learn more about our programming and alcohol abuse.

About First Responder Wellness

At First Responder Wellness, we guide those ready to take the path to recovery and well-being. We offer various programs within a community of others who know what it is like to be on the front lines. For more information on how we can assist you, call 888-443-4898. 

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