Compulsive drinking behaviours have been analysed for many years, but the concept of binge drinking has usually been consigned to pop psychology, fraught with stereotype and mythology. However, a recent study has quantified drinking behaviour and explored common risk factors of reckless alcohol consumption.
The findings are shocking for those who drink alcohol, as 30% of all adults exposed to alcohol later engage in compulsive drinking habits. The report, published by neuroscientists at Vanderbilt University and The Salk Institute, also explores possible reasons why some people fall into alcohol use disorder quicker than others.
Why exposure to alcohol is a growing problem
The effects of alcohol on long-term health can be disastrous. In addition to liver diseases and organ degeneration, mental health problems often go hand-in-hand with alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Various campaigns have sought to limit the amount of alcohol people drink, but widespread exposure to alcohol increases the likelihood of risk drinking and, by extension, developing long-term dependency.
Alcohol is available in supermarkets and pubs, restaurants and clubs, shops and stadiums. Aggressive alcohol marketing and advertising presents a recurring challenge, while high-profile sporting sponsorships and digital billboards promote beer brands ubiquitously. The risk of temptation affects everybody, not only recovering alcoholics, and as this new study suggests, the slide from casual drinking to substance abuse is far more common than many realise.
Consuming alcohol in moderation, thinking clearly and acting responsibly, does not pose a problem for a lot of people. However, in a time of worsening mental health and growing insecurity, constant exposure to alcohol and disingenuous marketing portraying it as a refreshing salve can trigger compulsive drinking behaviours.
What is binge drinking?
Binge drinking is a colloquial term for drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time, often with the intent of getting drunk, perhaps to avoid life problems or seek relief from dissatisfaction. A binge drinker may go weeks or months without consuming alcohol, only to have prolonged sessions of mass alcoholic intake.
The NHS defines binge drinking as follows:
- Drinking more than eight units of alcohol in a single session for men
- Drinking more than six units of alcohol in a single session for women
For context, eight units equates to five standard bottles of 5% strength beer or five small glasses of 13% strength wine. If you are someone who drinks excessively, regularly surpassing these recommended limits, seeking consultation for addiction treatment is highly recommended. We offer various contact options, making it easier than ever to find the help you need. Text HELP to 83222 or call our expert team on 0800 470 0382 today.
Why are some people more prone to compulsive drinking than others?
Interestingly, the recent neuroscience study delves deeper than conventional analysis to research what causes the transition from drinking alcohol in moderation to abusing the substance compulsively.
Experimenting with mice, the research team gave a range of subjects the same opportunity to drink alcohol. Even when offered the same amount of alcohol, the subjects naturally split into distinct categories based on light, heavy and compulsive binge drinking. This varied interaction between predisposition and experience creates compulsive drinking, the researchers concluded.
Digging deeper, the team identified a specific cortical-brainstem circuit that serves as both a biomarker and a cellular platform for the eventual development of compulsive drinking behaviours. This represents a true breakthrough in understanding addiction and, ultimately, devising effective treatment programmes.
The effects of compulsive drinking behaviours
Falling into a compulsive drinking habit, or becoming reliant upon alcohol to moderate your mood, can have negative consequences in the short, medium and long-term. Binge drinking makes the liver work much harder, while sensory impairment often leads to poor decision-making and a lack of physical and emotional perception.
The culture of rewarding yourself for a tough week at work by drinking excessively all weekend is incredibly ruinous. You cannot stockpile alcohol units and use them all in one go. Binge drinking should be avoided at all costs, especially if you have a naturally addictive personality.
Some people – including women, teenagers and people of slight build – may encounter the negative effects of alcohol after consuming less than the thresholds classified as binge drinking. Even the nationally recommended guidelines for alcohol consumption lack total accuracy, because everyone has a unique relationship with substances.
Frequently turning to drink for its inebriating effects, seeking relief from the banality of life, is a proven gateway to addiction and alcoholism. We can advise on your typical alcohol consumption levels, or those of a loved one, and signpost relevant services to correct any concerning trends.
How to get help if you are worried about your drinking
If you have spotted abnormal drinking patterns or noticed the onset of compulsive drinking behaviours, we offer a range of support services to help you regain control. From swift consultations and admissions to tailored detox programmes and structured aftercare, we embrace change and inspire recovery one step at a time.
Our philosophy puts human needs at the centre of addiction treatment. We understand that no two instances of alcoholism are the same, and that knowledge is applied to our rehabilitation approach. We invest time and effort to understand your past, present and future, creating a roadmap for personal success.
Here at Rehab Clinics Group, we appreciate that compulsive drinking behaviours can be difficult to admit. Sensationalist articles and daunting studies often add to the stigma surrounding alcoholism, but it is important to use such research as motivation for genuine change. It is never too late to assess your own drinking habits and make positive alterations. An expert touch can support you in that endeavour.
It may take generations to transform the culture of binge drinking, but that journey begins with a single step. That first step requires education, awareness and honesty, mixed with expert guidance. We can kickstart your journey and build a bright future where once hopelessness lurked.
Life does not have to centre around the next messy drinking session. With Rehab Clinics Group, you can reverse the most destructive of trends and reengage with society as a whole. Get in touch today, and let’s change together.