Binge Drinking vs. Chronic Drinking, which is Worse?

Practically everyone is aware that consuming alcohol is unhealthy, especially in excess. But is it unhealthier to drink a moderate amount daily or a large amount every once in a while? Let’s see what the research tells us.

Dangers of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is defined as consuming enough alcohol to raise one’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to .08% or above. For men, this usually means drinking 5 alcoholic beverages within 2 hours and for most women it means drinking 4 in the same period of time.

The greatest health risk directly caused by binge drinking is alcohol overdose or alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal and requires immediate emergency medical attention. With alcohol poisoning, someone’s heart rate can slow to a dangerous speed and the gag reflex can be inhibited to the point where someone chokes on their own vomit.

Alcohol overdose often occurs as a result of “extreme binge drinking,” which doubles the threshold of binge drinking. When someone blacks out due to alcohol consumption this usually indicates extreme binge drinking. Extreme binge drinking over the course of just several days can cause severe damage to the liver known as acute alcoholic hepatitis.

Typically, people binge drink to get drunk, which can result in many forms of injury and sickness indirectly. Drunkenness is associated with the loss of balance and coordination, often resulting in falls that cause broken bones and head injury.

Being drunk also reduces inhibitions, which can lead someone to participate in risky behavior, such as driving drunk or having unprotected sex. Despite the prevalence of alcohol misuse in Las Vegas, the state of Nevada is actually fairly moderate when compared to the DUI problems in other states, ranking 24th in terms of severity. When it comes to sexually transmitted diseases, however, Nevada is second worst in the country, with an STD index of 0.81.

Dangers of Chronic Drinking

With all the risks associated with binge drinking, surely drinking moderately every day is less damaging to your health, right? Not so fast. In fact, daily drinking over a long period of time is likely worse for your liver.

People that engage in daily drinking are much more likely to get liver disease than someone who binges on occasion.

People that engage in heavy drinking, which means consuming 15 or more beverages a week (though not necessarily binging) tend to be more anxious and depressed.

Many people mistakenly believe that drinking daily is good for the heart. While it is true that studies show that people who drink less than 2 glasses of red wine a day have a 20% reduced risk of dying of heart disease, exceeding this even slightly carries much more risk than benefit. Drinking 4 or 5 drinks every day over the course of several years can severely weaken the heart—a condition known as alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

Consistently drinking alcohol also contributes to obesity, which is associated with a staggering number of serious negative health side effects like heart disease, osteoarthritis, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and much more.

The Verdict

As you may have guessed, we can’t definitively say whether binge drinking or chronic drinking is worse. Binge drinking has the potential to result in immediate death or serious injury—though this usually requires pushing far past one’s limits or making poor decisions while drunk. Chronic drinking, on the other hand, slowly drags one’s health down over a long period of time.

Of course, people with an alcohol misuse don’t always choose one or the other. Both daily drinking and binge drinking are precursors and likely indicators of alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is a serious condition that may require professional treatment to recover from.

Fortunately, it’s never too late to get help. If you or a loved one has a drinking problem, consider reaching out to an admissions navigator at . Admissions navigators can help you with any questions you may have about Desert Hope, American Addiction Centers’ alcohol treatment center in Las Vegas, or at any of our other American Addiction Centers’ (AAC) facilities.

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