What counts as binge drinking?

Many people binge drink without realising it

Written by spunout


Binge drinking is a common occurrence, but there can be confusion over what the term means. Many people binge drink without even realising it. Knowing what binge drinking is can help us to better manage our drinking.

What is binge drinking?

Binge drinking means drinking a lot over a short period of time.

Specifically, the World Health Organisation defines binge drinking as six or more standard drinks in one sitting. A standard drink is:

  • a half a pint of beer
  • a small glass of wine
  • or a pub measure of spirit

Is binge drinking dangerous?

Binge drinking can pose numerous risks to your physical and mental health.

  • Binge drinking can increase our risks of accidents, injuries, and alcohol poisoning
  • It also severely impacts our judgement and decision making abilities as well
  • People are more prone to take risks as well after binge drinking, which can lead to possible harm and vulnerability
  • Binge drinking has also been found to be associated with suicide and self-harm

How to avoid binging on alcohol

It is safer not to drink alcohol at all but if you do decide to, here are some things you can do to reduce the risks:

Eat before or while you are drinking

It’s never a good idea to drink on an empty stomach. It’s important to have a good meal before a night out, especially if you plan to drink, and it might also be a good idea to get some snacks from the bar at some point during the night.

Start the evening with a non-alcoholic drink

There’s no rule that says you have to jump straight into the pints when you’re on a night out. Especially if you’re starting earlier in the evening, it might be a good idea to start off with a soft drink, a non-alcoholic beer or a glass of water before moving on to alcoholic drinks.

Drink non-alcoholic drinks in between alcoholic drinks

Each time you order a drink, you could also ask for a glass of water. When you finish the alcohol, drink the water before going up for another. This will help you to pace your drinking and ensure you don’t become drunk too quickly. 

Pace yourself

Drinking isn’t a race. You are more likely to enjoy yourself and spend less money if you avoid drinking too much at the beginning of the night and end up unable to keep going at the half-way point.

Know your limits

Be aware of your own limits with alcohol and learn how to recognise when it might be time to stop. Find out how many units of alcohol are recommended for you, and find out how many units are in your favourite drinks.

Avoid rounds, downing drinks, or playing drinking games

Sometimes there can be social pressure to get into things like rounds or drinking games, especially with a group. If someone suggests starting a round, just politely let them know you want to sit it out. Explain that you don’t want to have too much to drink and it’s probably easier if you buy your own drinks. 

If someone tries to encourage you to take a shot, down a drink or take part in a game that you don’t want to, it’s okay to say no. If they are your friends, they should respect your decision not to drink more than you want to. No one has a right to pressure you into anything you don’t want to do.

If you are worried about your drinking, you should talk to a trusted friend or family member about it. For information about getting help your drinking, click here.

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