Dating a Binge Drinker

Binge drinking is a kind of alcoholism marked by heavy, episodic drinking followed by a period of non-dependence on or relatively low consumption of alcohol. If you believe the person you are dating is a binge drinker, here are a few things to keep in mind.

About binge drinking

In order to identify your date as a binge drinker, you first need to know what the term means and how to differentiate one from other kinds of drinkers. Researchers often define binge drinking as the consumption of five or more drinks at one sitting for males and three or more drinks at one sitting for females. Binge drinking most often occurs on weekends and holidays when the pressures of work are at the lowest. When many people hear the term "binge" associated with drinking, they think of someone drinking continually for several days without eating and getting very little sleep. That is much more than binge drinking - that is in fact, “going on a bender”. It takes only a six-pack or just a bottle of wine to finish at one go in order to qualify for binge drinking. If you notice this of your date more than once, chances are he/she is a binge drinker. Also binge drinkers can be of various types – your partner may be a college student who goes on a drinking spree with friends or classmates or a middle-class professional who craves for stimulation and wishes to abandon control on weekends. Then there are the community drinkers who are motivated by the need to belong and usually drink in large friendship groups. At the other extreme are people who drink heavily to while away their boredom and loneliness.

Usually needs a social setting

Binge drinking is most often seen among young people who get together to get “smashed”. This may take place at a public place like a bar or at a private party. The ultimate aim is to get a whole of people together to engage in long episode of heavy drinking. So if you suspect that your partner has tendencies towards binge drinking, avoid organizing your dates around events where you alcohol will be served in unlimited quantities. Best of all, politely refuse to hang out with people who are prone to binge drinking since the behavior is abetted in a social setting, where heavy drinkers goad each other to consume more alcohol. This can cause serious problems. In Latvia for instance, the mortality rate among men is high due to binge drinking and this has led to a serious gender imbalance.

Prone to violence

There is a whole lot of medical evidence about how binge drinking can harm the person indulging in it. Heavy drinking by young adults and teens can lead to metabolic syndrome which refers to a cluster of metabolic risk factors that increases the chances of developing heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Researchers have also found that young drinkers who drink only once or twice a week can develop problems with attention and memory. Studies have found that although visual learning ability is not significantly affected, binge drinkers have a lower ability to learn new verbal information. The effect was the same for both male and female binge drinkers. Also, binge drinking at a young age, when the brain is still developing, can have a long-lasting effect on psychological development. Apart from this it affects decision-making which is why in research studies, young drinkers exhibit the same poor decision-making skills that are found in chronic alcoholics.

If you are dating a binge drinker, what becomes most relevant for you is your safety. It goes without saying that binge drinking makes people more prone to injury and accidents since their decision-making abilities are severely impaired. They also become more aggressive and are more likely to get into fights. Remarkably, researchers have found that young adults who binge drink, but who do not get into fights, are much more likely to become the victims of violence compared with those who do not binge drink. Thus when you are out with a binge drinker, there is always a chance that he/she may lose control of his/her senses and engage in behavior that is not only harmful to him/her but could put you in danger as well. Binge drinkers are known to get in trouble with the law, attack people and pick up fights without provocation. Worst of all, your out-of-control partner could turn on you and inflict verbal or even physical violence on you.

Needs to seek treatment

Binge drinking is often one of the most difficult forms of alcoholism to treat. This is because the drinker does not believe he/she has a problem – since he/she can go for days without touching alcohol or without getting drunk, the person is likely to think that he/she can give up alcohol anytime they want. However nothing could be further from the truth.  A binge drinker will inevitably return to the bottle and sooner or later transform into a full-time addict. The treatment for a binge drinker is pretty much the same for any other alcoholic. He/she can get in touch with a doctor or counselor or even your local AA chapter who will outline the path of treatment or guide the drinker to where he/she can get help. However the first step is to get your partner to admit the fact that he/she has a problem. The most you can do is to let him/her know – when sober – how terrible you feel when he/she loses control over him/herself after an episode of heavy drinking. And then you can make available all the information of alcohol-addiction treatment and resources. If your partner does not accept the truth of his/her alcohol dependence, there is really not much else that you can do. It is best for you to walk away from a relationship which holds nothing but frustration, embarrassment and stress in the long run.

However if your partner does agree to seek help for his/her binge drinking, you need to give him/her all the support you can. At the same time ensure that you take care of yourself too since the path towards de-addiction can be a long and torturous one.