Binge drinking

What constitutes binge drinking, how you can tell if you are binge drinking and where you can go for help. Check this out – you may be in for a bit of a surprise

The definition of binge drinking used by the NHS and National Office of Statistics is drinking more than double the lower risk guidelines for alcohol in one session.

The government advises that people should not regularly drink more than of 14 units per week.

*We will be updating all of our website and tools to reflect the new alcohol guidance announced on 8 January 2016*

Binge drinking for men, therefore, is drinking more than 8 units of alcohol – or about three pints of strong beer. For women, it’s drinking more than 6 units of alcohol, equivalent to two large glasses of wine.

Why is binge drinking riskier than drinking normally?

Two large glasses of wine may not seem like very much. But drinking six units of alcohol in a short space of time – an hour, say – will raise your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and could make you drunk very quickly. Drinking the same amount over several hours, and accompanied by food, will not have the same effect on your BAC.

What is an alcohol unit? Find out here...

What are the effects of binge drinking?

Getting drunk can affect your physical and mental health:

  • Accidents and falls are common because being drunk affects your balance and co-ordination. For example, alcohol is the single biggest cause of accidents at home (2).
  • In extreme cases, you could die. Overdosing on alcohol can stop you breathing or stop your heart, or you could choke on your vomit.
  • Binge drinking can affect your mood and your memory and in the longer term can lead to serious mental health problems.

More commonly, binge drinking can lead to anti-social, aggressive and violent behaviour.

The prevalence of binge drinking among young men and women has fallen since 1998. In 2010 the prevalence among young men remained at 24%, while among young women it fell to its lowest recorded level at 17% (3).

Just what is it about alcohol that so often leads to fights and arguments? Find out here...

How can you tell if you’re a binge drinker?

Even if you don't drink alcohol every day, you could be a binge drinker if you:

  • tend to drink quickly
  • regularly drink more than the lower risk guidelines in a single session
  • sometimes drink to get drunk.

If you find it hard to stop drinking once you have started, you could also have a problem with binge drinking and possibly alcohol dependence.

Where can you get help with binge drinking?

If you are worried about your drinking habits, contact your GP. They will be able to suggest ways to help you cut down your drinking, and can also refer you for counselling or support services.

You can also call Drinkline, the national alcohol helpline, on 0300 123 1110. It’s free and confidential.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a support group for people who are dependent on alcohol. There are branches all over the country. Call 0845 769 7555.


Page updated: January 2016