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The Causes of Binge Drinking and What to Do About It

Recent events have shown the use of alcohol in group settings and at times consequences of group thought versus individual decision making. Does the group allow the individual to drop his mask and act out true feelings? Or does the group suppress normal ethical social standards and because others are doing something, compel another to join in and be part of the fun?

Alcohol to many is regarded as a way to release stress and tensions of a busy existence and help generate quick ways to relax and be able to break down barriers of shyness and self-created boundaries allowing oneself to be the “real me.”

Numerous people recovering from alcohol abuse share the difficulty of being social accepted without a drink in their hands and feeling pressured to conform to others’ drinking behaviors either for the support of the one drinking or not being able to have “fun” without the loosening effects of alcohol.

The Foundation for a Drug Free Worlds defines binge drinking as: “the practice of consuming large quantities of alcohol in a single session, usually defined as five or more drinks at one time for a man or four or more drinks at one time for a woman.”

About 90% of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.

Causes of College Binge Drinking

One prime example of binge and group drinking behaviors come from college campuses. Studies have shown that there are various factors that can drive a college student to take up binge drinking:

  • Peer pressure and the need for acceptance
  • As an ‘initiation rite’ into certain cliques and groups in college
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Celebrating an occasion or achievement
  • The need to feel more confident and uninhibited in a social gathering
  • The need to reinforce a ‘macho’ or assertive image
  • Curiosity
  • As a form of rebellion, particularly against parents and other authority figures in the student’s life
  • Other factors, such as genetics or a family background of alcohol abuse

Reasons for Binge Drinking

Students sometimes drink because they think alcohol makes it easier to meet other people, relaxes their social inhibitions and helps them have more fun. When asked whether they believe alcohol has the following effects, the percentages below indicate the rates of college students who answered “yes” (CORE, 2011).

Binge drinkers cited the following as important reasons for drinking:

  • Drinking to get drunk (cited by 47% of students who consumed alcohol)
  • Status associated with drinking
  • Culture of alcohol consumption on campus
  • Peer pressure and academic stress
  • Breaks the ice: 74.4%
  • Enhances social activity: 74.4%
  • Gives people something to do: 71.7%
  • Gives people something to talk about: 66.6%
  • Allows people to have more fun: 63.1%
  • Facilitates male bonding: 60.1%
  • Facilitates a connection with peers: 61.7%
  • Facilitates sexual opportunities: 53%
  • Facilitates female bonding: 28.8%
  • Makes women sexier: 28.8%
  • Makes food taste better: 22.7%
  • Makes me sexier: 20.4%
  • Makes men sexier: 19.9%

How to Deal with Binge Drinking

Christina Larmer, a freelance journalist out of Australia, recently posted an article in Bodyandsoul.com on ways of decreasing your chances of using harmful binge drinking patterns which can ruin emotion and physical lifestyles.

She states that today, a third of all women and 42 pe cent of men admit to binge drinking and one in five Australians regularly drink to dangerous levels (that’s four drinks in up to three hours for women and five for men).

Alcohol is the most readily acceptable and accessible drug in the world today and it works wonders on our mood, stress levels and self-confidence.

But there’s a dark side too, warns clinical psychologist and binge drinking counselor Ilan Cohen. “In my practice I see a lot of people saying, ‘My partner says if I don’t stop drinking, they’ll leave me’,” he says. “Often people minimize the problem and say, ‘It’s not so bad, everybody else drinks.'” Even if it’s infrequent, binge drinking has a big impact.

The writer noted that in Australia, alcohol is directly responsible for about 4,000 deaths and 50,000 hospital admissions per year. It’s a sobering thought, but getting your drinking under control is essential for your self-esteem, relationships, career prospects and general well being.

You don’t have to abstain, says Cohen, but you do need to learn how to drink sensibly even when those around you are not. “It takes a lot of what we call skill-building and you have to stay committed to behavior change.”

Here are Some Tips:

  • Get a plan: Before you head out, set yourself a controlled drinking program, learning or relearning how to drink in a controlled way will entail applying basic skills that may not be familiar to you.
  • Recognize triggers: Recognize drinking triggers and avoid them; and if you can’t, distract yourself by playing pool, chatting or dancing. Not sure of your triggers? Keep a drinking diary, noting when, where, what and with whom you last drank, and patterns will soon emerge.
  • Slow down: This approach is the most effective way to control your drinking; quenching your thirst first with a long soft drink, sipping half units, diluting your alcohol and not standing at the bar.
  • Change your lifestyle: Instead of heading to the pub with mates, meet for a coffee or at the beach instead. And remember, the healthier your lifestyle and the less stressed you are, the less likely you are to over-indulge.
  • Dig deep: You won’t fix the drinking until you deal with the underlying cause. You may have depression or anxiety, so what’s needed is a very good assessment of your problems and then help to develop a strategy to stop the binge drinking.
  • Go without: If you’ve tried to control you’re drinking before and failed, it may be easier to ban booze completely.

Conclusions

Whether drinking in a group setting or by yourself, the term binge means to take or ingest something to excess. The group, such as on college campuses, may allow binge drinking behaviors. It is the individual who may pay the consequences of the actions in the long run. We may feel the need to “fit it” with the rest but by doing so, we tend to take away our right to choose what is best for the individual versus the group; pay me now or pay me later mentality.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shared the following information accumulated from national surveys:

  •  One in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times per month, consuming about eight drinks per binge.
  • While binge drinking is more common among young adults aged 18–34 years, binge drinkers aged 65 years and older report binge drinking more often—an average of five to six times a month.
  • Binge drinking is more common among those with household incomes of $75,000 or more than among those with lower incomes.
  • Approximately 92% of U.S. adults who drink excessively report binge drinking in the past 30 days.
  • Although college students commonly binge drink, 70% of binge drinking episodes involve adults age 26 years and older.
  • The prevalence of binge drinking among men is twice the prevalence among women.
  • Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers.
  • About 90% of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.
  • More than half of the alcohol consumed by adults in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.

“Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life.”
George Bernard Shaw

 

Cocktails photo available from Shutterstock

The Causes of Binge Drinking and What to Do About It

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) in northern Michigan who has a passion for reading, writing, music and helping others. He specializes in counseling complex family situations, substance abuse, and parenting. Steve’s counseling philosophy is holistic, approaching each issue on its own merit and evaluating influences to help overcome life’s dilemmas.

 

APA Reference
Greenman, S. (2015). The Causes of Binge Drinking and What to Do About It. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 15, 2019, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/the-causes-of-binge-drinking-and-what-to-do-about-it/

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 11 Nov 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Nov 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.