Binge Drinking

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2023-06-06 9:00
Binge Drinking
Popular
Binge Drinking: Definition, Effects, and How To Stop
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Ready for a reality check? Binge drinking may feel like a wild and fun ride, but it can quickly get dangerous. Learn about the immediate and long-lasting dangers of binge drinking.

24 min read

Break the Binge Drinking Cycle With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

It's a Friday night, and you're out with friends at your favorite restaurant. The atmosphere is buzzing, music is pumping, and laughter fills the air. The excitement is contagious, and it's easy to get wrapped up in the moment. 

It would be so easy to have another drink, and maybe even another. After all, that’s what your friends are doing; only an hour into the night, they’re already at least a few drinks in. But you … no. You take a moment to pause, breathe, and reflect.

Binge drinking — drinking large amounts of alcohol within a short period — may seem like a harmless way to have fun. However, its immediate dangers can be serious. 

In this blog, we’ll first provide a binge drinking definition. We’ll then delve into the dangers of binge drinking, both the immediate and long-term effects. Finally, we’ll provide tips on breaking free from unhealthy drinking patterns and reclaiming your health. Let’s get started on the facts about binge drinking! 

What Is Binge Drinking?

For starters, what is considered binge drinking? How common is it?

Definition of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking entails consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time, typically within two hours. For men, this means drinking five or more alcoholic drinks, and for women, four or more drinks. 

How Common is Binge Drinking? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking is the most common and the most dangerous pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. This pattern of drinking can lead to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, which is the legal driving limit across the United States. Binge drinking is not only about the number of drinks consumed but also the speed at which they are consumed, leading to rapid intoxication and increased health risks.

Facts About Binge Drinking

Most Americans drink occasionally, but around one-sixth of American adults report frequent binge drinking, with episodes occurring multiple times within a month. When adults binge drink, they typically have around seven drinks.

Young adults under the age of 35 are also more prone to binge drinking compared to other age groups, and men are twice as likely to binge drink as women.

Symptoms of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking can become a problem if it's affecting your work, relationships, or school. Besides the amount and frequency of drinks, you should look out for these signs:

  • Drinking more alcohol than intended
  • Increasing frequency of drinking
  • Drinking early in the day
  • Becoming defensive about your drinking habits
  • Struggling to cut back or quit drinking
  • Needing more amounts of alcohol to have the same effects
  • Missing out on other activities due to drinking
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Having memory lapses or "blackouts" 

Short-Term Effects of Binge Drinking

First, let’s take a look at several of the immediate impacts of binge drinking.

Impaired Judgment and Coordination

Binge drinking can significantly impair a person’s judgment, coordination, and reaction time. This increases the risk of accidents, injuries, and engaging in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex, drug use, or driving under the influence. Research has shown that binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to drive while impaired than non-binge drinkers.


Hangovers and “Hangxiety”

The morning after binge drinking, people often experience hangovers, including headache, nausea, fatigue, and dehydration. These symptoms can be severe and may last for hours or even days. Hangovers can also affect a person’s ability to concentrate and perform daily tasks, leading to decreased productivity and poor decision-making. As the brain rebalances its neurotransmitters, many people also experience intense anxiety along with their hangover symptoms, which is sometimes called “hangxiety.”

Violence and Aggression

Binge drinking leads to an increased risk of violence and aggression, both as a perpetrator and as a victim. Alcohol impairs judgment and lowers inhibitions, making people more likely to engage in aggressive behaviors or become involved in violent situations.

Dangers of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking can be dangerous, increasing our risk for alcohol poisoning and blackouts.

Increased Risk of Alcohol Poisoning

Consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period can lead to alcohol poisoning, a potentially life-threatening condition. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include confusion, vomiting, seizures, slow or irregular breathing, hypothermia, and unconsciousness. If not treated promptly, alcohol poisoning can lead to coma, brain damage, or death. In the United States, an average of six people die from alcohol poisoning each day; the majority are middle-aged men.

Blackouts

During a blackout, a person may continue to function and engage in activities but will have no memory of what occurred during that time. Blackouts are a common consequence of binge drinking and can lead to dangerous situations, such as engaging in risky behaviors without any recollection of the events. Research has shown that approximately 50% of binge drinkers have experienced blackouts; women are more susceptible due to differences in alcohol metabolism.

If you or someone you know are experiencing these symptoms of binge drinking, make sure to seek professional help or call 911 for immediate medical care. 

Why Do People Binge Drink?

There are a variety of complex reasons why people might choose to binge drink. Alcohol has a long history in our culture and society, and certain factors can put us more at risk for binge drinking behaviors. 

Social and Cultural Factors

Binge drinking is often embedded in our social and cultural contexts. Social norms and peer pressures can significantly influence our drinking behaviors. In some cultures, alcohol is a central component of social gatherings and celebrations, thus normalizing many drinking behaviors. Peer influence, especially in younger adults, can lead to binge drinking because they are often pressured to “fit in.”

Psychological Factors

People may turn to binge drinking as a coping mechanism for stress, anxiety, or depression. Alcohol provides a temporary escape from negative emotions and situations. Moreover, people with certain personality traits, like impulsiveness or a tendency to seek high-risk behaviors, may be more prone to binge drinking.

Biological and Genetic Factors

Genetics can influence our predisposition for alcohol addiction and binge drinking. Genes affect how our body processes alcohol, which can make us more susceptible to its effects and leads to a higher risk of binge drinking.

Environmental Factors

Factors like availability of alcohol, advertising, and social attitudes towards drinking can contribute. Environments where alcohol is readily available and heavily promoted often encourage binge drinking behaviors.

Mental Health Issues

There is a strong correlation between mental health disorders and substance abuse, including binge drinking. Individuals with conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or PTSD may use alcohol to self-medicate, leading to unhealthy drinking patterns. A history of trauma or adverse experiences, especially in childhood, can also increase the likelihood of using alcohol as a coping mechanism

Long-Term Effects of Binge Drinking

Unfortunately, the consequences of binge drinking don’t stop in the subsequent hours or days. Here are just a handful of the most important long-term effects of binge drinking:

Alcohol Use Disorder

Binge drinking increases the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD), a chronic mental health disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite negative social, occupational, or health consequences. AUD can have severe impacts on a person’s personal and work lives, and it may require professional treatment to overcome. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 28.6 million adults in the United States had AUD in 2021.

Liver Disease

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to liver damage and various liver diseases, including fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis that make the liver unable to clear toxins from the blood. Liver diseases can be life-threatening and may require medical intervention, including liver transplantation in severe cases. In the United States, alcohol-related liver disease is the leading cause of liver transplantation and is responsible for nearly 50% of all liver disease deaths.

Brain and Nervous System Damage

Binge drinking can lead to long-lasting changes in the brain and nervous system, affecting cognitive functions such as memory, learning, and decision-making. These changes can be particularly detrimental to young adults, whose brains are still developing. Research has shown that the long-term effects of binge drinking during adolescence can lead to reduced brain volume, decreased cognitive performance, and increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases later in life.

Cardiovascular Disease

Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, including high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. These conditions can have severe health consequences and may be life-threatening. 

Mental Health Issues

Binge drinking has been associated with an increased risk of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, as well as negative impacts on sexual health. Alcohol can exacerbate existing mental health conditions and may interfere with the effectiveness of medications used to treat these disorders. Research has shown that people who binge drink are more likely to experience mental health and mood disorders and have a higher incidence of suicide attempts.

Weakened Immune System

Binge drinking takes a toll on your immune system. Excessive alcohol consumption weakens your body's ability to fight off infections and illnesses, leaving you more susceptible to diseases. It disrupts the balance of immune cells, making you more prone to infections like pneumonia and increasing the severity of the common cold. Maintaining a strong immune system is essential for overall health, making moderation in alcohol consumption a key factor in staying well.

Cancer Risk

There is a strong link between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of several types of cancer, including mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast, and colorectal cancer. The risk of cancer increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, alcohol is responsible for approximately 3.5% of all cancer deaths in the United States.

Gastrointestinal Dysfunction

Binge drinking can significantly disrupt the delicate balance of the gut microbiome, leading to issues like inflammation, impaired nutrient absorption, and increased risk of gastrointestinal diseases. Chronic alcohol consumption can also cause conditions like gastritis, ulcers, and even intestinal permeability, commonly known as "leaky gut syndrome," which can further compromise overall health and well-being. Maintaining a healthy gut through balanced nutrition and moderation in alcohol consumption is vital for optimal gastrointestinal function and overall well-being.

Harmful effects of binge drinking on the body. Learn more about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption

Binge Drinking vs. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD): What Are the Differences?

Understanding the differences between AUD and binge drinking is essential for identifying and addressing potential concerns. For instance, someone with AUD will often engage in binge drinking — but someone who binge drinks occasionally may not necessarily have AUD. 

Here are the main differences between these two concerning drinking behaviors:

  • Drinking patterns. The chief difference between AUD and binge drinking comes down to pattern. AUD involves consistent excessive drinking, often on a daily or frequent basis. In contrast, binge drinking is characterized by episodic heavy drinking and is typically intermittent. AUD is a chronic condition that can range from mild to severe. Furthermore, AUD can persist over a long period, causing significant negative impacts on multiple aspects of a person's life.

  • Loss of control. Individuals with AUD experience a loss of control over their alcohol consumption and find it challenging to cut back or stop drinking altogether. Binge drinkers may temporarily lose control during specific drinking episodes, but they can generally control their drinking habits outside of those occasions.

  • Cravings and dependence. People with AUD often experience strong cravings for alcohol and may develop physical and psychological dependence. Binge drinkers, on the other hand, may not experience the same intense cravings or dependence on alcohol.

  • Overall impact. AUD has wide-ranging impacts on our physical, mental, and sexual health, relationships, employment, and daily functioning. Binge drinking, while risky and harmful, may not have the same level of sustained negative effects as AUD. However, both can immediately lead to impulsive behaviors — such as drunk driving and unprotected sex — that can have lifelong consequences.

How To Stop Binge Drinking

The consequences of binge drinking are both severe and far-reaching, affecting every facet of our lives — from physical health to emotional well-being, and even social and professional relationships. The first step towards breaking free from this harmful pattern is acknowledgment. Once you recognize the toll that binge drinking is taking on your life, you’re already on the path to recovery. Here are some strategies to help you quit binge drinking and reclaim your health:

1. Set Clear Goals

Determine what you want to achieve, whether it's cutting back on alcohol or quitting altogether. Be clear about your objectives and write them down. Share these goals with someone you trust, who can help hold you accountable. (You can also share these goals with others on the same journey in the Reframe Forum.) 

2. Monitor Your Drinking Patterns

Keep a diary or use Reframe’s personalized Drink Tracker to keep track of the amount of alcohol you consume. This will give you a clearer picture of your drinking habits and help you identify triggers or situations that lead to binge drinking.

3. Practice Mindfulness

Taking a moment to pause, breathe, and reflect before you reach for another drink can help break the cycle of binge drinking. Mindfulness teaches you to become aware of your actions and gives you the chance to choose a healthier option.

4. Find Healthy Alternatives

Consider substituting non-alcoholic beverages like mocktails, herbal teas, or flavored water for alcoholic drinks. You can also divert the urge to drink by engaging in activities that bring you joy, such as reading, exercising, or spending time with loved ones.

5. Create a Support Network

Breaking free from binge drinking is easier with support. Talk openly about your struggles with friends and family who can offer emotional help. You may also consider joining a support group or seeking professional help.

6. Plan Ahead

Before attending social events where alcohol will be present, set limits on how much you’ll drink — and stick to them! Make a pact with a friend to help each other abstain or moderate drinking, or arrange for a sober ride home.

7. Learn To Say No

You don't have to accept a drink just because it's offered to you. Practice polite ways to decline alcohol, and don't be afraid to assert your boundaries.

8. Understand the Underlying Issues

Binge drinking is often a symptom of deeper emotional or psychological issues. Addressing these root causes through therapy can help you make long-lasting changes to your drinking habits.

9. Reward Yourself

Set milestones and celebrate when you reach them — but not with alcohol. Treat yourself to something you enjoy, whether it's a spa day, a new book, or a weekend getaway.

10. Seek Professional Help

If you find it challenging to quit binge drinking despite multiple attempts, it may be time to seek professional help. Options include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medications to reduce cravings, and detox programs.

11. Stay Committed

It's common to experience setbacks while trying to quit binge drinking, but don't be discouraged. Use setbacks as learning experiences, and stay committed to your goals.

By recognizing the dangers of binge drinking and taking active steps to change, you empower yourself to live a healthier, happier life. With the right mindset and tools, breaking free from binge drinking is entirely within your reach. 

Parting Thoughts

Binge drinking may be difficult to resist, especially in social settings where it often becomes the norm rather than the exception. But as we've discussed, both the immediate and long-term effects of binge drinking can have devastating impacts on your physical health, emotional well-being, and overall quality of life. These consequences should serve as a wake-up call, nudging you toward better choices and healthier habits.

While the road to recovery may be challenging, it is also incredibly empowering. Each step you take towards breaking free from binge drinking is a step closer to regaining control of your life. You don't have to go it alone — reach out to friends, family, or professionals who can offer support and guidance. You can also leverage the science-backed tools on our app to effectively change your drinking habits. 

The path to a healthier lifestyle begins with the conscious decision to change. By applying the actionable strategies outlined in this blog, you're not just improving your physical health; you're also opening the doors to emotional freedom and enhanced life satisfaction. Here's to a brighter, happier, and healthier you!

It's a Friday night, and you're out with friends at your favorite restaurant. The atmosphere is buzzing, music is pumping, and laughter fills the air. The excitement is contagious, and it's easy to get wrapped up in the moment. 

It would be so easy to have another drink, and maybe even another. After all, that’s what your friends are doing; only an hour into the night, they’re already at least a few drinks in. But you … no. You take a moment to pause, breathe, and reflect.

Binge drinking — drinking large amounts of alcohol within a short period — may seem like a harmless way to have fun. However, its immediate dangers can be serious. 

In this blog, we’ll first provide a binge drinking definition. We’ll then delve into the dangers of binge drinking, both the immediate and long-term effects. Finally, we’ll provide tips on breaking free from unhealthy drinking patterns and reclaiming your health. Let’s get started on the facts about binge drinking! 

What Is Binge Drinking?

For starters, what is considered binge drinking? How common is it?

Definition of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking entails consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time, typically within two hours. For men, this means drinking five or more alcoholic drinks, and for women, four or more drinks. 

How Common is Binge Drinking? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking is the most common and the most dangerous pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. This pattern of drinking can lead to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, which is the legal driving limit across the United States. Binge drinking is not only about the number of drinks consumed but also the speed at which they are consumed, leading to rapid intoxication and increased health risks.

Facts About Binge Drinking

Most Americans drink occasionally, but around one-sixth of American adults report frequent binge drinking, with episodes occurring multiple times within a month. When adults binge drink, they typically have around seven drinks.

Young adults under the age of 35 are also more prone to binge drinking compared to other age groups, and men are twice as likely to binge drink as women.

Symptoms of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking can become a problem if it's affecting your work, relationships, or school. Besides the amount and frequency of drinks, you should look out for these signs:

  • Drinking more alcohol than intended
  • Increasing frequency of drinking
  • Drinking early in the day
  • Becoming defensive about your drinking habits
  • Struggling to cut back or quit drinking
  • Needing more amounts of alcohol to have the same effects
  • Missing out on other activities due to drinking
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Having memory lapses or "blackouts" 

Short-Term Effects of Binge Drinking

First, let’s take a look at several of the immediate impacts of binge drinking.

Impaired Judgment and Coordination

Binge drinking can significantly impair a person’s judgment, coordination, and reaction time. This increases the risk of accidents, injuries, and engaging in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex, drug use, or driving under the influence. Research has shown that binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to drive while impaired than non-binge drinkers.


Hangovers and “Hangxiety”

The morning after binge drinking, people often experience hangovers, including headache, nausea, fatigue, and dehydration. These symptoms can be severe and may last for hours or even days. Hangovers can also affect a person’s ability to concentrate and perform daily tasks, leading to decreased productivity and poor decision-making. As the brain rebalances its neurotransmitters, many people also experience intense anxiety along with their hangover symptoms, which is sometimes called “hangxiety.”

Violence and Aggression

Binge drinking leads to an increased risk of violence and aggression, both as a perpetrator and as a victim. Alcohol impairs judgment and lowers inhibitions, making people more likely to engage in aggressive behaviors or become involved in violent situations.

Dangers of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking can be dangerous, increasing our risk for alcohol poisoning and blackouts.

Increased Risk of Alcohol Poisoning

Consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period can lead to alcohol poisoning, a potentially life-threatening condition. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include confusion, vomiting, seizures, slow or irregular breathing, hypothermia, and unconsciousness. If not treated promptly, alcohol poisoning can lead to coma, brain damage, or death. In the United States, an average of six people die from alcohol poisoning each day; the majority are middle-aged men.

Blackouts

During a blackout, a person may continue to function and engage in activities but will have no memory of what occurred during that time. Blackouts are a common consequence of binge drinking and can lead to dangerous situations, such as engaging in risky behaviors without any recollection of the events. Research has shown that approximately 50% of binge drinkers have experienced blackouts; women are more susceptible due to differences in alcohol metabolism.

If you or someone you know are experiencing these symptoms of binge drinking, make sure to seek professional help or call 911 for immediate medical care. 

Why Do People Binge Drink?

There are a variety of complex reasons why people might choose to binge drink. Alcohol has a long history in our culture and society, and certain factors can put us more at risk for binge drinking behaviors. 

Social and Cultural Factors

Binge drinking is often embedded in our social and cultural contexts. Social norms and peer pressures can significantly influence our drinking behaviors. In some cultures, alcohol is a central component of social gatherings and celebrations, thus normalizing many drinking behaviors. Peer influence, especially in younger adults, can lead to binge drinking because they are often pressured to “fit in.”

Psychological Factors

People may turn to binge drinking as a coping mechanism for stress, anxiety, or depression. Alcohol provides a temporary escape from negative emotions and situations. Moreover, people with certain personality traits, like impulsiveness or a tendency to seek high-risk behaviors, may be more prone to binge drinking.

Biological and Genetic Factors

Genetics can influence our predisposition for alcohol addiction and binge drinking. Genes affect how our body processes alcohol, which can make us more susceptible to its effects and leads to a higher risk of binge drinking.

Environmental Factors

Factors like availability of alcohol, advertising, and social attitudes towards drinking can contribute. Environments where alcohol is readily available and heavily promoted often encourage binge drinking behaviors.

Mental Health Issues

There is a strong correlation between mental health disorders and substance abuse, including binge drinking. Individuals with conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or PTSD may use alcohol to self-medicate, leading to unhealthy drinking patterns. A history of trauma or adverse experiences, especially in childhood, can also increase the likelihood of using alcohol as a coping mechanism

Long-Term Effects of Binge Drinking

Unfortunately, the consequences of binge drinking don’t stop in the subsequent hours or days. Here are just a handful of the most important long-term effects of binge drinking:

Alcohol Use Disorder

Binge drinking increases the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD), a chronic mental health disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite negative social, occupational, or health consequences. AUD can have severe impacts on a person’s personal and work lives, and it may require professional treatment to overcome. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 28.6 million adults in the United States had AUD in 2021.

Liver Disease

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to liver damage and various liver diseases, including fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis that make the liver unable to clear toxins from the blood. Liver diseases can be life-threatening and may require medical intervention, including liver transplantation in severe cases. In the United States, alcohol-related liver disease is the leading cause of liver transplantation and is responsible for nearly 50% of all liver disease deaths.

Brain and Nervous System Damage

Binge drinking can lead to long-lasting changes in the brain and nervous system, affecting cognitive functions such as memory, learning, and decision-making. These changes can be particularly detrimental to young adults, whose brains are still developing. Research has shown that the long-term effects of binge drinking during adolescence can lead to reduced brain volume, decreased cognitive performance, and increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases later in life.

Cardiovascular Disease

Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, including high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. These conditions can have severe health consequences and may be life-threatening. 

Mental Health Issues

Binge drinking has been associated with an increased risk of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, as well as negative impacts on sexual health. Alcohol can exacerbate existing mental health conditions and may interfere with the effectiveness of medications used to treat these disorders. Research has shown that people who binge drink are more likely to experience mental health and mood disorders and have a higher incidence of suicide attempts.

Weakened Immune System

Binge drinking takes a toll on your immune system. Excessive alcohol consumption weakens your body's ability to fight off infections and illnesses, leaving you more susceptible to diseases. It disrupts the balance of immune cells, making you more prone to infections like pneumonia and increasing the severity of the common cold. Maintaining a strong immune system is essential for overall health, making moderation in alcohol consumption a key factor in staying well.

Cancer Risk

There is a strong link between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of several types of cancer, including mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast, and colorectal cancer. The risk of cancer increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, alcohol is responsible for approximately 3.5% of all cancer deaths in the United States.

Gastrointestinal Dysfunction

Binge drinking can significantly disrupt the delicate balance of the gut microbiome, leading to issues like inflammation, impaired nutrient absorption, and increased risk of gastrointestinal diseases. Chronic alcohol consumption can also cause conditions like gastritis, ulcers, and even intestinal permeability, commonly known as "leaky gut syndrome," which can further compromise overall health and well-being. Maintaining a healthy gut through balanced nutrition and moderation in alcohol consumption is vital for optimal gastrointestinal function and overall well-being.

Harmful effects of binge drinking on the body. Learn more about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption

Binge Drinking vs. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD): What Are the Differences?

Understanding the differences between AUD and binge drinking is essential for identifying and addressing potential concerns. For instance, someone with AUD will often engage in binge drinking — but someone who binge drinks occasionally may not necessarily have AUD. 

Here are the main differences between these two concerning drinking behaviors:

  • Drinking patterns. The chief difference between AUD and binge drinking comes down to pattern. AUD involves consistent excessive drinking, often on a daily or frequent basis. In contrast, binge drinking is characterized by episodic heavy drinking and is typically intermittent. AUD is a chronic condition that can range from mild to severe. Furthermore, AUD can persist over a long period, causing significant negative impacts on multiple aspects of a person's life.

  • Loss of control. Individuals with AUD experience a loss of control over their alcohol consumption and find it challenging to cut back or stop drinking altogether. Binge drinkers may temporarily lose control during specific drinking episodes, but they can generally control their drinking habits outside of those occasions.

  • Cravings and dependence. People with AUD often experience strong cravings for alcohol and may develop physical and psychological dependence. Binge drinkers, on the other hand, may not experience the same intense cravings or dependence on alcohol.

  • Overall impact. AUD has wide-ranging impacts on our physical, mental, and sexual health, relationships, employment, and daily functioning. Binge drinking, while risky and harmful, may not have the same level of sustained negative effects as AUD. However, both can immediately lead to impulsive behaviors — such as drunk driving and unprotected sex — that can have lifelong consequences.

How To Stop Binge Drinking

The consequences of binge drinking are both severe and far-reaching, affecting every facet of our lives — from physical health to emotional well-being, and even social and professional relationships. The first step towards breaking free from this harmful pattern is acknowledgment. Once you recognize the toll that binge drinking is taking on your life, you’re already on the path to recovery. Here are some strategies to help you quit binge drinking and reclaim your health:

1. Set Clear Goals

Determine what you want to achieve, whether it's cutting back on alcohol or quitting altogether. Be clear about your objectives and write them down. Share these goals with someone you trust, who can help hold you accountable. (You can also share these goals with others on the same journey in the Reframe Forum.) 

2. Monitor Your Drinking Patterns

Keep a diary or use Reframe’s personalized Drink Tracker to keep track of the amount of alcohol you consume. This will give you a clearer picture of your drinking habits and help you identify triggers or situations that lead to binge drinking.

3. Practice Mindfulness

Taking a moment to pause, breathe, and reflect before you reach for another drink can help break the cycle of binge drinking. Mindfulness teaches you to become aware of your actions and gives you the chance to choose a healthier option.

4. Find Healthy Alternatives

Consider substituting non-alcoholic beverages like mocktails, herbal teas, or flavored water for alcoholic drinks. You can also divert the urge to drink by engaging in activities that bring you joy, such as reading, exercising, or spending time with loved ones.

5. Create a Support Network

Breaking free from binge drinking is easier with support. Talk openly about your struggles with friends and family who can offer emotional help. You may also consider joining a support group or seeking professional help.

6. Plan Ahead

Before attending social events where alcohol will be present, set limits on how much you’ll drink — and stick to them! Make a pact with a friend to help each other abstain or moderate drinking, or arrange for a sober ride home.

7. Learn To Say No

You don't have to accept a drink just because it's offered to you. Practice polite ways to decline alcohol, and don't be afraid to assert your boundaries.

8. Understand the Underlying Issues

Binge drinking is often a symptom of deeper emotional or psychological issues. Addressing these root causes through therapy can help you make long-lasting changes to your drinking habits.

9. Reward Yourself

Set milestones and celebrate when you reach them — but not with alcohol. Treat yourself to something you enjoy, whether it's a spa day, a new book, or a weekend getaway.

10. Seek Professional Help

If you find it challenging to quit binge drinking despite multiple attempts, it may be time to seek professional help. Options include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medications to reduce cravings, and detox programs.

11. Stay Committed

It's common to experience setbacks while trying to quit binge drinking, but don't be discouraged. Use setbacks as learning experiences, and stay committed to your goals.

By recognizing the dangers of binge drinking and taking active steps to change, you empower yourself to live a healthier, happier life. With the right mindset and tools, breaking free from binge drinking is entirely within your reach. 

Parting Thoughts

Binge drinking may be difficult to resist, especially in social settings where it often becomes the norm rather than the exception. But as we've discussed, both the immediate and long-term effects of binge drinking can have devastating impacts on your physical health, emotional well-being, and overall quality of life. These consequences should serve as a wake-up call, nudging you toward better choices and healthier habits.

While the road to recovery may be challenging, it is also incredibly empowering. Each step you take towards breaking free from binge drinking is a step closer to regaining control of your life. You don't have to go it alone — reach out to friends, family, or professionals who can offer support and guidance. You can also leverage the science-backed tools on our app to effectively change your drinking habits. 

The path to a healthier lifestyle begins with the conscious decision to change. By applying the actionable strategies outlined in this blog, you're not just improving your physical health; you're also opening the doors to emotional freedom and enhanced life satisfaction. Here's to a brighter, happier, and healthier you!

Binge Drinking
Popular
2023-02-27 9:00
Binge Drinking
Popular
8 Signs That You’re Drinking Too Much
This is some text inside of a div block.

Unlock the clues your body might be sending about alcohol! Explore 8 science-backed signs to know if it's time to reconsider that nightly habit.

24 min read

Thinking about Changing Your Relationship With Alcohol This January — and Beyond? Reframe Is Here To Help!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. And yet our bodies — and the changing circumstances of our lives — often send us subtle (or not-so-subtle) signs that it might be time to reassess and change course.

When it comes to alcohol, the signs that we might be drinking too much are too important to ignore. Let’s explore 8 of the most common ones in more detail and learn how we can tweak our habits for a healthier, more fulfilling life!

1. Depression: Beyond “The Blues”

One common misconception about alcohol is that it serves as a mood enhancer, or "liquid courage." However, while many people believe a drink might lift their spirits, the reverse is just as likely: as a depressant, alcohol can exacerbate sadness, lethargy, and hopelessness, leading to a vicious cycle with depressive symptoms and booze feeding into one another.

  • Chemical reaction in the brain. Alcohol slows the functions of the central nervous system and alters the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine — the “feel good” neurotransmitters — leading to shifts in mood.
  • The emotional rollercoaster. While we may initially feel a sense of euphoria or relief, as alcohol wears off, it can cause a significant drop in mood. This dip can be even more severe for those already prone to depression.
  • Impact on sleep. Booze can interfere with our sleep patterns. Lack of quality sleep, in turn, is a known contributor to depression symptoms.
Chronic Drinking and Mental Health 

Regular overconsumption of alcohol can lead to relationship conflicts, work difficulties, or financial troubles, all of which can increase stress and depression. It can also reduce the effectiveness of antidepressants, making it harder for patients to find relief from their symptoms.

2. Frequent Blackouts: When Memories Go Missing

Blackouts — periods of time that seem to be erased from our memory — occur when we consume a large amount of alcohol within a short time. If they happen frequently, they can harm our brain and memory functions. It's alarming how common blackouts are, and how often they're brushed aside — in reality, they are no joke, especially if they happen frequently.

Understanding Blackouts

Contrary to common misconception, blackouts are not the same as passing out from alcohol consumption. A blackout is an episode of amnesia during which a person cannot recall events that happened while they were intoxicated, even though they were awake and functioning during that time. Scientists draw a distinction between two types of blackouts: "en bloc," involving a complete inability to recall events, and "fragmentary," referring to spotty memories that might return with cues.

Blackouts result from alcohol inhibiting the ability of the hippocampus to form new long-term memories. While we might be able to participate in conversations and even perform complex tasks, these events don’t get encoded into long-term memory storage.

Not everyone will experience a blackout at the same level of intoxication. Factors such as drinking on an empty stomach, drinking rapidly, fatigue, and even genetics can play a role. Moreover, it’s a myth that only those with alcohol dependency experience blackouts — even moderate drinkers can have them, especially if they have lots of drinks in a row.

Risky Business

Blackouts put us at risk. From injuries to risky behaviors such as unprotected intimacy or driving, the inability to remember can spell trouble. And it's not just about the immediate risks — consistent blackouts can lead to brain damage and cognitive deficits over time.

Recognizing and accepting the occurrence of frequent blackouts is crucial. These episodes are clear signals from our brain: the way we’re drinking isn't safe!

3. Increased Alcohol Tolerance: When “Holding Your Liquor” Isn’t Something To Brag About

Alcohol tolerance is often worn as a badge of honor in some social circles: "I can drink everyone under the table!" or "It takes a lot to get me buzzed." But what does it really mean to have a high tolerance, and why should we be concerned?

Decoding Alcohol Tolerance 

Alcohol tolerance develops when frequent alcohol consumption leads us to need more alcohol to achieve the same effects we once experienced with smaller quantities. This means, over time, we might find ourselves drinking more to get the same buzz or relaxation that a single drink once provided.

Tolerance develops as the body's way of adapting to regular and heavy alcohol consumption. The liver becomes more efficient at metabolizing alcohol, and the brain adjusts its neurotransmitter activity in response to the frequent presence of alcohol. This doesn’t mean the body is processing alcohol in a healthier way; it’s merely adjusting to the regular intake and putting other important functions on hold.

Dangers of Increased Tolerance

A heightened tolerance can be deceiving. While we might feel less intoxicated or impaired, alcohol's effect on coordination, judgment, and reaction times remains just as real. This discrepancy can lead to dangerous situations: for example, we might think that we’re okay to drive when we’re not. Also, consuming large amounts floods the body with more alcohol, which can accelerate damage to the liver, heart, and other organs.

Finally, increasing tolerance can be a sign of alcohol dependency. As tolerance increases, we might find ourselves drinking more to avoid withdrawal symptoms rather than to get a buzz, which becomes more and more elusive — a clear sign that the body has become dependent on alcohol.

Reversing The Trend

The good news is that cutting back or taking a break from alcohol can help reset our tolerance levels. However, anyone who has developed a strong dependency should proceed with caution, as sudden cessation can lead to severe and possibly dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures. Experiencing withdrawal is in itself a sign we’ve been drinking too much — one that we’ll explore next.

4. Withdrawal Symptoms: Beyond a “Bad Hangover

"Oh, it's just a hangover." This is a phrase we often hear after a night of heavy drinking. But sometimes, what people brush off as a simple hangover could be the early signs of alcohol withdrawal. This distinction is crucial, as withdrawal symptoms are a clear sign of alcohol dependence. It isn’t just about “wanting” a drink — it’s a physiological response indicating that the body needs booze to function normally.

Defining Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal refers to the symptoms that can occur when a person who has regularly been drinking excessive amounts of alcohol suddenly stops or reduces their intake. It happens because the central nervous system becomes hyperexcitable when alcohol is no longer suppressing its activity.

While symptoms vary from person to person, there are several typical ones:

  • Anxiety or nervousness. As a depressant, alcohol relaxes the nervous system. Without it, those who have become dependent can get anxious or jittery.
  • Tremors (shakes). Tremors can start a few hours after the last drink and get worse over 48 to 72 hours.
  • Mood swings. These can range from irritability to extreme agitation.
  • Nausea and vomiting. These symptoms can come with a heightened sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Sweating or rapid heartbeat. This is how the body physically reacts to the sudden removal of a depressant.
  • Headache. Often throbbing and persistent, it is usually more prolonged than a hangover headache.
  • Insomnia. Despite feeling exhausted, many people find it difficult to sleep during withdrawal.
Severe Symptoms

In some cases, we may experience more severe and dangerous symptoms like hallucinations, seizures, and a condition called delirium tremens (characterized by confusion, rapid heartbeat, and fever). Symptoms can start as early as 6 hours after the last drink and can peak around 24-72 hours later. For some, withdrawal symptoms can persist for weeks.

Professional help is key in the case of severe withdrawal symptoms, as they can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Gradual reduction under medical supervision or specific treatments can make the process safer and more comfortable.

Indicators of excessive alcohol consumption

5. Neglecting Responsibilities: Putting Life on the Back Burner

Whether it's commitments at work, household chores, or maintaining social relationships, there's always something on our to-do list. However, when alcohol starts creeping into daily routines, we might find ourselves dropping the ball in some of those areas. Work tasks piling up? No time for events or hobbies we once loved? Alcohol might be taking more control of our lives than we realize.

The shift can often be subtle — perhaps a hangover makes us call in sick for work or skip an important family event. Over time, however, these isolated incidents can morph into a pattern as alcohol consumption or its aftereffects consistently interfere with daily tasks and responsibilities

Chronic alcohol consumption often leads to problems at work:

  • Decreased productivity. Feeling lethargic or mentally foggy the day after can slow us down.
  • Increased absenteeism. Whether it's due to hangovers or spending more time drinking, absenteeism can spike.
  • Missed deadlines. Alcohol can mess with our ability to manage time efficiently, leading to delays and missed commitments.
  • Damaged professional relationships. If colleagues or superiors notice the trend, it can strain workplace relationships.

As for home life and relationships, there are several common patterns here as well:

  • Household neglect. Regular chores like cleaning, paying bills, or even grocery shopping might take a back seat.
  • Strained family relationships. Missing family events, forgetting important dates, or not being present for loved ones can strain ties.
  • Parenting concerns. For those with kids, excessive drinking might mean missing school events, not helping with homework, or being less emotionally available.
  • Social commitments. Prioritizing drinking or recovering from its effects can lead to declining invitations, missing social gatherings, or forgetting commitments made to friends.

These signs are a wake-up call. If the scales seem tipped towards alcohol more often than not, it might be time to reassess our drinking habits before our relationships, careers, and personal growth take a serious hit.

6. Sleep Disturbances: Rhythm Disrupted

Contrary to popular belief, a nightcap isn’t a ticket to dreamland, and feeling tired in spite of clocking in 8 or more hours can be a sign that our drinking habits might be getting out of hand.

  • Disruptor in disguise. Alcohol can, indeed, reduce the time it takes to nod off due to its sedative properties. However, this is just the beginning of the story — science shows that alcohol has negative effects on sleep.
  • Deep sleep and REM. Sleep is broadly divided into two categories — non-REM (deep sleep) and REM (rapid eye movement) that involves dreaming and is restorative for the body and mind. While alcohol can increase deep sleep in the first half of the night, it dramatically reduces the REM stage that typically occurs later, leading to disrupted, fragmented sleep and fewer dreams due to more frequent awakenings and a harder time getting back to sleep.
  • Exacerbation of sleep disorders. By relaxing the muscles of the throat, alcohol can worsen conditions such as sleep apnea (in which breathing stops and starts during the night). It leads to more frequent and prolonged breathing interruptions.
The Cycle of Sleep Disturbance

Over time, sleep that has been disrupted by booze can lead to increased stress and anxiety, making us turn to alcohol again for relief and creating a vicious cycle. And while sleep disturbances might seem minor compared to other signs of excessive drinking, they can lead to more significant health problems, including weakened immunity, weight gain, and increased risk of chronic diseases.

7. Increased Risky Behavior: “I Can’t Believe I Did That!”

From selecting a breakfast cereal to choosing a career path, our decision-making process is grounded in a mix of logic, experience, and intuition. However, excessive drinking can throw a wrench into this process, leading to risky behavior. If we find ourselves taking unnecessary risks — whether that’s driving under the influence or engaging in other dangerous activities — it's a red flag!

The Brain on Booze

Alcohol affects the brain's frontal lobes, which are responsible for decision-making, judgment, impulse control, and reasoning. When these functions are impaired, the chances of making risky choices skyrocket.

While there’s no end to the variety of risky behaviors, these common ones often show up when alcohol runs the show:

  • Driving under the influence. The slowed reaction times and impaired judgment can have catastrophic outcomes, not just for the driver but for everyone else on the road.
  • Unprotected sex. Impaired decision-making can lead to unprotected encounters, increasing the risk of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
  • Physical altercations. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and increases aggression, leading to fights or confrontations that we might typically avoid.
  • Financial impulsivity. Going on a shopping binge or gambling can seem more enticing when under the influence.
The Domino Effect

The consequences of risky behaviors aren’t just about immediate outcomes, and one risky behavior can set off a chain of events with long-term implications for personal relationships, mental health, and overall life trajectory. For instance, a DUI could lead to legal troubles, loss of a driver's license, or job loss.

If we find that our nights of drinking often culminate in stories of "I can't believe I did that!" it's worth pausing and considering the role alcohol plays in these choices. While stories can be retold and laughed off, the consequences of risky behaviors are no joke.

8. Physical Health Issues: When the Body Says “Enough Is Enough”

The human body is a remarkable, intricate machine that can heal tiny cuts, fend off invaders, and even grow new life. But just like any piece of intricate machinery, it can suffer damage if not treated right.

Excessive drinking can lead to a slew of health issues, all of which serve as red flags that it’s time to reassess our drinking habits: 

Action Steps: Take Control!

It's never too late to tune into these signals and take proactive steps! The body is extremely resilient, and even small changes make a difference.

  • Daily reflections. Take a few minutes each day to jot down how you felt after drinking. Over time, patterns will emerge. The self-awareness developed this way can be a powerful tool in understanding your habits.
  • Alcohol-free days. Designate certain days of the week as alcohol-free. These breaks can both reduce consumption and give your body a well-needed rest.
  • Mindful drinking. When you choose to drink, do so mindfully. Sip slowly, savor the taste, and be present. This helps reduce the quantity consumed.
  • Replace the habit. Find a new activity to edge out the booze. Maybe it’s picking up a hobby, joining a class, or even just taking a walk.
  • Reach out. If you're feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone. Whether it's a friend, family member, support group, or professional, a supportive ear can make a difference.
  • Stay informed. Educate yourself on the effects of alcohol. Knowing the science and the potential harms can be a great motivator.
  • Download Reframe. For science-backed methods and support at your fingertips, consider using the Reframe app! A structured program can provide the guidance and resources you need.

Taking Charge

Taking the first step to recognize and understand your relationship with alcohol is monumental. Every journey begins with that single step, and you've already taken the first one by being here. In the end, it’s all about tapping into your own intuition to recognize when it’s time for a shift. After all, in the words of writer and entrepreneur Jim Rohn, “Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live.”

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. And yet our bodies — and the changing circumstances of our lives — often send us subtle (or not-so-subtle) signs that it might be time to reassess and change course.

When it comes to alcohol, the signs that we might be drinking too much are too important to ignore. Let’s explore 8 of the most common ones in more detail and learn how we can tweak our habits for a healthier, more fulfilling life!

1. Depression: Beyond “The Blues”

One common misconception about alcohol is that it serves as a mood enhancer, or "liquid courage." However, while many people believe a drink might lift their spirits, the reverse is just as likely: as a depressant, alcohol can exacerbate sadness, lethargy, and hopelessness, leading to a vicious cycle with depressive symptoms and booze feeding into one another.

  • Chemical reaction in the brain. Alcohol slows the functions of the central nervous system and alters the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine — the “feel good” neurotransmitters — leading to shifts in mood.
  • The emotional rollercoaster. While we may initially feel a sense of euphoria or relief, as alcohol wears off, it can cause a significant drop in mood. This dip can be even more severe for those already prone to depression.
  • Impact on sleep. Booze can interfere with our sleep patterns. Lack of quality sleep, in turn, is a known contributor to depression symptoms.
Chronic Drinking and Mental Health 

Regular overconsumption of alcohol can lead to relationship conflicts, work difficulties, or financial troubles, all of which can increase stress and depression. It can also reduce the effectiveness of antidepressants, making it harder for patients to find relief from their symptoms.

2. Frequent Blackouts: When Memories Go Missing

Blackouts — periods of time that seem to be erased from our memory — occur when we consume a large amount of alcohol within a short time. If they happen frequently, they can harm our brain and memory functions. It's alarming how common blackouts are, and how often they're brushed aside — in reality, they are no joke, especially if they happen frequently.

Understanding Blackouts

Contrary to common misconception, blackouts are not the same as passing out from alcohol consumption. A blackout is an episode of amnesia during which a person cannot recall events that happened while they were intoxicated, even though they were awake and functioning during that time. Scientists draw a distinction between two types of blackouts: "en bloc," involving a complete inability to recall events, and "fragmentary," referring to spotty memories that might return with cues.

Blackouts result from alcohol inhibiting the ability of the hippocampus to form new long-term memories. While we might be able to participate in conversations and even perform complex tasks, these events don’t get encoded into long-term memory storage.

Not everyone will experience a blackout at the same level of intoxication. Factors such as drinking on an empty stomach, drinking rapidly, fatigue, and even genetics can play a role. Moreover, it’s a myth that only those with alcohol dependency experience blackouts — even moderate drinkers can have them, especially if they have lots of drinks in a row.

Risky Business

Blackouts put us at risk. From injuries to risky behaviors such as unprotected intimacy or driving, the inability to remember can spell trouble. And it's not just about the immediate risks — consistent blackouts can lead to brain damage and cognitive deficits over time.

Recognizing and accepting the occurrence of frequent blackouts is crucial. These episodes are clear signals from our brain: the way we’re drinking isn't safe!

3. Increased Alcohol Tolerance: When “Holding Your Liquor” Isn’t Something To Brag About

Alcohol tolerance is often worn as a badge of honor in some social circles: "I can drink everyone under the table!" or "It takes a lot to get me buzzed." But what does it really mean to have a high tolerance, and why should we be concerned?

Decoding Alcohol Tolerance 

Alcohol tolerance develops when frequent alcohol consumption leads us to need more alcohol to achieve the same effects we once experienced with smaller quantities. This means, over time, we might find ourselves drinking more to get the same buzz or relaxation that a single drink once provided.

Tolerance develops as the body's way of adapting to regular and heavy alcohol consumption. The liver becomes more efficient at metabolizing alcohol, and the brain adjusts its neurotransmitter activity in response to the frequent presence of alcohol. This doesn’t mean the body is processing alcohol in a healthier way; it’s merely adjusting to the regular intake and putting other important functions on hold.

Dangers of Increased Tolerance

A heightened tolerance can be deceiving. While we might feel less intoxicated or impaired, alcohol's effect on coordination, judgment, and reaction times remains just as real. This discrepancy can lead to dangerous situations: for example, we might think that we’re okay to drive when we’re not. Also, consuming large amounts floods the body with more alcohol, which can accelerate damage to the liver, heart, and other organs.

Finally, increasing tolerance can be a sign of alcohol dependency. As tolerance increases, we might find ourselves drinking more to avoid withdrawal symptoms rather than to get a buzz, which becomes more and more elusive — a clear sign that the body has become dependent on alcohol.

Reversing The Trend

The good news is that cutting back or taking a break from alcohol can help reset our tolerance levels. However, anyone who has developed a strong dependency should proceed with caution, as sudden cessation can lead to severe and possibly dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures. Experiencing withdrawal is in itself a sign we’ve been drinking too much — one that we’ll explore next.

4. Withdrawal Symptoms: Beyond a “Bad Hangover

"Oh, it's just a hangover." This is a phrase we often hear after a night of heavy drinking. But sometimes, what people brush off as a simple hangover could be the early signs of alcohol withdrawal. This distinction is crucial, as withdrawal symptoms are a clear sign of alcohol dependence. It isn’t just about “wanting” a drink — it’s a physiological response indicating that the body needs booze to function normally.

Defining Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal refers to the symptoms that can occur when a person who has regularly been drinking excessive amounts of alcohol suddenly stops or reduces their intake. It happens because the central nervous system becomes hyperexcitable when alcohol is no longer suppressing its activity.

While symptoms vary from person to person, there are several typical ones:

  • Anxiety or nervousness. As a depressant, alcohol relaxes the nervous system. Without it, those who have become dependent can get anxious or jittery.
  • Tremors (shakes). Tremors can start a few hours after the last drink and get worse over 48 to 72 hours.
  • Mood swings. These can range from irritability to extreme agitation.
  • Nausea and vomiting. These symptoms can come with a heightened sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Sweating or rapid heartbeat. This is how the body physically reacts to the sudden removal of a depressant.
  • Headache. Often throbbing and persistent, it is usually more prolonged than a hangover headache.
  • Insomnia. Despite feeling exhausted, many people find it difficult to sleep during withdrawal.
Severe Symptoms

In some cases, we may experience more severe and dangerous symptoms like hallucinations, seizures, and a condition called delirium tremens (characterized by confusion, rapid heartbeat, and fever). Symptoms can start as early as 6 hours after the last drink and can peak around 24-72 hours later. For some, withdrawal symptoms can persist for weeks.

Professional help is key in the case of severe withdrawal symptoms, as they can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Gradual reduction under medical supervision or specific treatments can make the process safer and more comfortable.

Indicators of excessive alcohol consumption

5. Neglecting Responsibilities: Putting Life on the Back Burner

Whether it's commitments at work, household chores, or maintaining social relationships, there's always something on our to-do list. However, when alcohol starts creeping into daily routines, we might find ourselves dropping the ball in some of those areas. Work tasks piling up? No time for events or hobbies we once loved? Alcohol might be taking more control of our lives than we realize.

The shift can often be subtle — perhaps a hangover makes us call in sick for work or skip an important family event. Over time, however, these isolated incidents can morph into a pattern as alcohol consumption or its aftereffects consistently interfere with daily tasks and responsibilities

Chronic alcohol consumption often leads to problems at work:

  • Decreased productivity. Feeling lethargic or mentally foggy the day after can slow us down.
  • Increased absenteeism. Whether it's due to hangovers or spending more time drinking, absenteeism can spike.
  • Missed deadlines. Alcohol can mess with our ability to manage time efficiently, leading to delays and missed commitments.
  • Damaged professional relationships. If colleagues or superiors notice the trend, it can strain workplace relationships.

As for home life and relationships, there are several common patterns here as well:

  • Household neglect. Regular chores like cleaning, paying bills, or even grocery shopping might take a back seat.
  • Strained family relationships. Missing family events, forgetting important dates, or not being present for loved ones can strain ties.
  • Parenting concerns. For those with kids, excessive drinking might mean missing school events, not helping with homework, or being less emotionally available.
  • Social commitments. Prioritizing drinking or recovering from its effects can lead to declining invitations, missing social gatherings, or forgetting commitments made to friends.

These signs are a wake-up call. If the scales seem tipped towards alcohol more often than not, it might be time to reassess our drinking habits before our relationships, careers, and personal growth take a serious hit.

6. Sleep Disturbances: Rhythm Disrupted

Contrary to popular belief, a nightcap isn’t a ticket to dreamland, and feeling tired in spite of clocking in 8 or more hours can be a sign that our drinking habits might be getting out of hand.

  • Disruptor in disguise. Alcohol can, indeed, reduce the time it takes to nod off due to its sedative properties. However, this is just the beginning of the story — science shows that alcohol has negative effects on sleep.
  • Deep sleep and REM. Sleep is broadly divided into two categories — non-REM (deep sleep) and REM (rapid eye movement) that involves dreaming and is restorative for the body and mind. While alcohol can increase deep sleep in the first half of the night, it dramatically reduces the REM stage that typically occurs later, leading to disrupted, fragmented sleep and fewer dreams due to more frequent awakenings and a harder time getting back to sleep.
  • Exacerbation of sleep disorders. By relaxing the muscles of the throat, alcohol can worsen conditions such as sleep apnea (in which breathing stops and starts during the night). It leads to more frequent and prolonged breathing interruptions.
The Cycle of Sleep Disturbance

Over time, sleep that has been disrupted by booze can lead to increased stress and anxiety, making us turn to alcohol again for relief and creating a vicious cycle. And while sleep disturbances might seem minor compared to other signs of excessive drinking, they can lead to more significant health problems, including weakened immunity, weight gain, and increased risk of chronic diseases.

7. Increased Risky Behavior: “I Can’t Believe I Did That!”

From selecting a breakfast cereal to choosing a career path, our decision-making process is grounded in a mix of logic, experience, and intuition. However, excessive drinking can throw a wrench into this process, leading to risky behavior. If we find ourselves taking unnecessary risks — whether that’s driving under the influence or engaging in other dangerous activities — it's a red flag!

The Brain on Booze

Alcohol affects the brain's frontal lobes, which are responsible for decision-making, judgment, impulse control, and reasoning. When these functions are impaired, the chances of making risky choices skyrocket.

While there’s no end to the variety of risky behaviors, these common ones often show up when alcohol runs the show:

  • Driving under the influence. The slowed reaction times and impaired judgment can have catastrophic outcomes, not just for the driver but for everyone else on the road.
  • Unprotected sex. Impaired decision-making can lead to unprotected encounters, increasing the risk of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
  • Physical altercations. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and increases aggression, leading to fights or confrontations that we might typically avoid.
  • Financial impulsivity. Going on a shopping binge or gambling can seem more enticing when under the influence.
The Domino Effect

The consequences of risky behaviors aren’t just about immediate outcomes, and one risky behavior can set off a chain of events with long-term implications for personal relationships, mental health, and overall life trajectory. For instance, a DUI could lead to legal troubles, loss of a driver's license, or job loss.

If we find that our nights of drinking often culminate in stories of "I can't believe I did that!" it's worth pausing and considering the role alcohol plays in these choices. While stories can be retold and laughed off, the consequences of risky behaviors are no joke.

8. Physical Health Issues: When the Body Says “Enough Is Enough”

The human body is a remarkable, intricate machine that can heal tiny cuts, fend off invaders, and even grow new life. But just like any piece of intricate machinery, it can suffer damage if not treated right.

Excessive drinking can lead to a slew of health issues, all of which serve as red flags that it’s time to reassess our drinking habits: 

Action Steps: Take Control!

It's never too late to tune into these signals and take proactive steps! The body is extremely resilient, and even small changes make a difference.

  • Daily reflections. Take a few minutes each day to jot down how you felt after drinking. Over time, patterns will emerge. The self-awareness developed this way can be a powerful tool in understanding your habits.
  • Alcohol-free days. Designate certain days of the week as alcohol-free. These breaks can both reduce consumption and give your body a well-needed rest.
  • Mindful drinking. When you choose to drink, do so mindfully. Sip slowly, savor the taste, and be present. This helps reduce the quantity consumed.
  • Replace the habit. Find a new activity to edge out the booze. Maybe it’s picking up a hobby, joining a class, or even just taking a walk.
  • Reach out. If you're feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone. Whether it's a friend, family member, support group, or professional, a supportive ear can make a difference.
  • Stay informed. Educate yourself on the effects of alcohol. Knowing the science and the potential harms can be a great motivator.
  • Download Reframe. For science-backed methods and support at your fingertips, consider using the Reframe app! A structured program can provide the guidance and resources you need.

Taking Charge

Taking the first step to recognize and understand your relationship with alcohol is monumental. Every journey begins with that single step, and you've already taken the first one by being here. In the end, it’s all about tapping into your own intuition to recognize when it’s time for a shift. After all, in the words of writer and entrepreneur Jim Rohn, “Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live.”

Binge Drinking
Popular
2023-12-29 9:00
Binge Drinking
Stages of Alcoholism and When Does It Become a Problem
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Curious about the stages of Alcohol Use Disorder and what makes booze so addictive? Our latest blog unpacks the science and offers supportive tips for every stage of AUD.

21 min read

Ready To Change Your Relationship With Alcohol? Reframe Can Help!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app today!

Read Full Article  →

It starts small and sneaks up on you slowly. First, you find yourself going out most weekends, casually asking the host of a party you’re planning to go to if there’s going to be wine there. Maybe you start stopping by your neighborhood bar for trivia night every Thursday — even on weeks when it’s canceled. Before you know it, a glass — or two, or four, or a bottle — of cabernet is a nightly thing. Eventually, you might be asking yourself that dreaded question: Am I an alcoholic? 

Why is alcohol so addictive? And when does drinking truly become a problem? Simply put, alcohol use disorder (AUD) develops when you can't stop or control your drinking, even if it's causing trouble in your life. While it can range from mild to severe, the good news is that recovery is totally possible at any stage. This isn't the easiest of topics, but understanding it is a huge step towards making healthier choices — so let’s take a closer look and break it down!

Part 1: History of AUD

Understanding AUD isn’t just about the present — it’s also fascinating to look back at its history. How has our understanding of AUD evolved over time? Let’s take a brief journey through time.

Ancient Times and Early Civilizations

  • Early use. Alcohol has been around for millennia. Ancient civilizations like the Egyptians and Greeks used it for both enjoyment and ritual purposes.
  • First red flags. Even back then, some recognized the potential for abuse. Aristotle, for instance, warned against the excessive use of wine.

The Middle Ages to the 18th Century

  • A staple in daily life. In the Middle Ages, alcohol was a common part of daily life, often safer to drink than water. However, this didn’t mean everyone got a free pass when it came to booze — drunkenness was usually frowned upon.
  • Distillation and stronger spirits. The development of distillation in the 12th century led to stronger forms of alcohol. This period saw an increase in alcohol abuse, leading to a wider recognition of its health impacts.

19th Century: The Temperance Movement

  • Rising concerns. The 1800s saw a growing concern over alcohol abuse. The Temperance Movement, aimed at reducing alcohol consumption, gained momentum in Europe and America.
  • Early treatment attempts. This period also saw the opening of the first inebriate asylums and the use of early treatment methods, although they were rudimentary by today’s standards.

20th Century: Medical Understanding and Modern Treatment

  • AUD as a medical condition. It was only in the 20th century that AUD began to be understood as a medical condition. The American Medical Association declared alcoholism an illness in 1956.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Founded in 1935, AA introduced the concept of peer support in recovery — a significant shift in treatment approach.

21st Century: Advances in Treatment and Awareness

  • Modern treatments. Today, we have many treatments for AUD, ranging from medication-assisted therapies to comprehensive rehabilitation programs.
  • Increased awareness. There's a greater understanding of the complexity of AUD, with all of its psychological, social, and genetic factors — which we will now explore in more detail.

Part 2: Why Do People Become Alcoholics

As we know today, a lot of the “why” behind AUD (a preferred term over alcoholism these days) has to do with our brains, which — amazing and complex as they are — are prone to being hijacked by certain processes.

Alcohol disrupts the delicate balance of our brain chemicals, and regular heavy drinking changes our neural pathways, leading to dependence. It's a mix of genetics, mental health, and our environment.

  • Dopamine and the feel-good factor. Our brains release dopamine, a chemical that motivates us to seek out and repeat enjoyable activities, including drinking. However, alcohol: gives the brain a dopamine overload. Over time, the brain starts thinking, “Hey, I need alcohol to release dopamine!” and that’s where the addiction cycle — and dependency — begins.
  • The reward system. Alcohol affects the brain's reward circuits within our limbic system which are designed to remember activities that make us feel good, encouraging us to do them again. It's a survival mechanism but, with alcohol, it gets hijacked.
  • Altered brain structure. Heavy drinking can actually change the structure of our brains, particularly in areas responsible for judgment, decision making, learning, memory, and behavior control, leading to cravings and making alcohol harder to resist.

Genetic and Environmental Factors

  • Genetics play a role. Our genes can influence our risk of developing AUD. Some people have genetic factors that affect how alcohol impacts their brain, making them more susceptible to dependency.
  • Environment matters, too. Our surroundings, life experiences, and our social circle can influence our drinking habits and the potential development of AUD.

Mental Health and AUD: A Two-Way Street 

There's also a close relationship between AUD and mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Sometimes, people use alcohol to cope with these conditions, but alcohol can also exacerbate or trigger mental health problems on its own.

Part 3: The Journey Through Alcoholism Stages

1. Early Stage: The Sneaky Beginnings

Recognizing the early stage of alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be tricky, but it's super important. Let’s break down what this early stage really looks like.

Subtle Shifts

It usually starts small — maybe drinking a bit more or more often than we used to. The reasons for our drinking might also start to change.

  • Increased frequency and quantity. What used to be a weekend thing might now edge into the weekdays as well. And the number of drinks? That can start to creep up as well.
  • Drinking for different reasons. Initially, we might have a drink socially, but now, there might be a shift. Maybe we find ourselves reaching for a drink after a stressful day or to ease some anxiety.
  • Change in social settings. We might start preferring events or places where alcohol is available. Sometimes, there’s a gradual shift from enjoying the social aspect to focusing more on the drinking itself.
  • Feedback from friends or family. Loved ones might start noticing changes, even if they mention them casually. Comments like “You’re having another one?” can be early indicators.

Physical and Emotional Changes

  • Needing more to feel the same effects. This is a big one. As the body gets used to alcohol, it needs more to feel the same buzz or relaxation. This increase in tolerance is a clear biological sign of the body adapting to more regular alcohol use.
  • Mood swings and irritability. Fluctuations in mood, especially irritability or frustration, can become more common. These can be subtle at first, but they're a significant sign that alcohol is starting to affect our emotions.
  • Denial or minimization. It’s common to think “I can stop anytime” or “It’s not a big deal.” These thoughts are part of the early stage, as it's hard to see the gradual increase in drinking as a problem.

Catching these early signs can be crucial. They might seem small on their own, but together, they can signal the start of a deeper issue with booze. Stay tuned as we explore the next stages!

2. Middle Stage: Increased Reliance on Alcohol

The middle stage of AUD is often a wake-up call. It’s when the effects of alcohol use become more tangible in everyday life — we might start dropping the ball at work and in our personal life, and booze becomes more of a need. We might even start drinking alone or keeping our drinking a secret.

At this point, the signs become more apparent. Recognizing them is key to understanding where we are on the spectrum.

  • Regular cravings. Unlike the early stage when drinking might have been more spontaneous, now there's a noticeable pattern — cravings for alcohol are a regular, if not daily, thing.
  • Drinking becomes a priority. We might find ourselves planning our day around drinking or looking forward to it as the highlight of our day. Booze becomes a staple for celebrations, and alcohol-free fun sounds like an oxymoron. 

Physical and Mental Health Symptoms

  • Increased tolerance. Just as in the early stage, our tolerance continues to increase in a way that’s more pronounced. We need even more alcohol to feel the effects.
  • Early withdrawal symptoms. When we’re not drinking, we might start getting mild withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, or shakiness.
  • Noticeable health changes. We might start noticing physical symptoms, such as sleep disturbances, digestive problems, or unexplained aches and pains. There could also be shifts in appetite or weight.
  • Mental fog and memory issues. Difficulty concentrating, mental fog, or occasional memory lapses become more common.

Behavioral Changes

  • Neglecting responsibilities. This might be one of the more evident changes — maybe our work performance slips, or we’re not as engaged in family or social responsibilities as we used to be.
  • Withdrawal from social activities. Pulling away from social gatherings that don’t involve booze or losing interest in hobbies that used to be enjoyable is often a red flag.
  • Secretive behavior about drinking. We might start hiding how much we’re drinking, feel guilty about it, or lie about our alcohol consumption to friends and family.
  • Defensive responses to concerns. When others express worry about our drinking, we might react defensively or downplay their concerns.

3. Advanced Stage: Deepening Dependency on Alcohol

This stage is the toughest, but understanding it is crucial for taking the right steps toward recovery. Alcohol often becomes the central part of our life. It's not just about craving it anymore — it's about needing it to function. Controlling our drinking becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible. We might find ourselves drinking more than we intended, and for longer periods. Sooner or later, our life might start crashing down around us, carrying us to the dreaded “rock bottom” people in recovery circles sometimes talk about. 

More Severe Health Impacts

Our day revolves around drinking, and not drinking can actually make us feel physically sick. This takes a serious toll on our health — both mentally and physically.

  • Intense withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms might now include tremors, hallucinations, and seizures. This is why medical supervision is critical during detoxification.
  • Physical health concerns. The toll on our body becomes more apparent. This can include liver damage, heart problems, or digestive issues. Our immune system might also take a hit, making us more susceptible to illnesses.
  • Mental health struggles. Mental health can seriously be affected. We might experience bouts of depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.

Impact on Personal and Professional Life

Life gets rocky, as our relationships, job, and health take a serious hit. We might even run into legal problems or put ourselves in serious danger.

  • Strained relationships. Personal relationships might suffer significantly, leading to conflicts with family, friends, or partners.
  • Professional consequences. Work performance often declines, which can lead to job loss or strained professional relationships.
  • Increased risk-taking. There’s often a rise in risky behaviors, like drinking and driving, or putting ourselves in dangerous situations while under the influence.
  • Legal issues. Legal problems can crop up at this stage, whether due to DUIs, public intoxication, or other alcohol-related offenses.

The advanced stage of AUD is serious, but it’s not the end of the road. With the right support and treatment, recovery is absolutely possible! It’s about taking that brave step to seek help and starting the journey towards a healthier, alcohol-free life.

Part 4: Treatment and Support for Each Stage: A Map to Recovery

1. In the Early Stage: Getting a Grip

  • Track your triggers. Keep a note of what makes you want to drink. The goal isn’t to judge — think of yourself as a scientist gathering information about your drinking habits.
  • Make small changes. Set some goals for cutting back. Maybe you’ll skip that second drink or avoid situations where you're tempted to overdo it.
  • Switch it up. Replace drinking with something healthier, like a new hobby or exercise.
  • Stress less. Try some chill-out techniques — meditation, yoga, or just deep breathing.
  • Finding your tribe. Support groups rock! There's strength in numbers and shared experiences. Groups like the Reframe community can feel like finding your long-lost family. They get it, because they're there too.
  • Chatting with a pro. Sometimes, talking to a therapist who knows their stuff about addiction can give you some seriously good tips and tricks. In other cases, a healthcare provider can offer the best advice.

2. In the Middle Stage: Stepping It Up

  • Outpatient programs. Think of these as workshops where you get to learn, share, and still sleep in your own bed.
  • Medication options. Some meds can help take the edge off those cravings or make withdrawal less difficult.
  • Regular heart-to-hearts. Keep those therapy sessions going. It's like having a coach in your corner, helping you figure out the mental game.
  • Bringing in the fam. Sometimes, bringing your family into the loop can help. They’re part of your world, and they can be part of your support system too.

3. In the Advanced Stage: Pulling Out All the Stops

  • Detox with the docs. If withdrawal is rough, doing it under medical supervision can make it safer and less scary. Consider going to a detox facility or, perhaps, residential or inpatient treatment. Think of it as a time-out for your health — it's all about getting better.
  • Planning for the long haul. After rehab, it's all about staying on track. This means ongoing support, maybe some therapy, and strategies to keep you steady.
  • Whole-person wellness. Mix in some yoga, meditation, or whatever makes you feel centered and whole. Treating your body right is key!

What's Next?

As we can see, each stage of AUD has its own challenges and solutions. Find the right fit for you, and remember that reaching out for help is always a smart move.

Tackling AUD is a big deal. We're all in this together, and we're rooting for you every step of the way! Let's take this journey to recovery one day at a time.

It starts small and sneaks up on you slowly. First, you find yourself going out most weekends, casually asking the host of a party you’re planning to go to if there’s going to be wine there. Maybe you start stopping by your neighborhood bar for trivia night every Thursday — even on weeks when it’s canceled. Before you know it, a glass — or two, or four, or a bottle — of cabernet is a nightly thing. Eventually, you might be asking yourself that dreaded question: Am I an alcoholic? 

Why is alcohol so addictive? And when does drinking truly become a problem? Simply put, alcohol use disorder (AUD) develops when you can't stop or control your drinking, even if it's causing trouble in your life. While it can range from mild to severe, the good news is that recovery is totally possible at any stage. This isn't the easiest of topics, but understanding it is a huge step towards making healthier choices — so let’s take a closer look and break it down!

Part 1: History of AUD

Understanding AUD isn’t just about the present — it’s also fascinating to look back at its history. How has our understanding of AUD evolved over time? Let’s take a brief journey through time.

Ancient Times and Early Civilizations

  • Early use. Alcohol has been around for millennia. Ancient civilizations like the Egyptians and Greeks used it for both enjoyment and ritual purposes.
  • First red flags. Even back then, some recognized the potential for abuse. Aristotle, for instance, warned against the excessive use of wine.

The Middle Ages to the 18th Century

  • A staple in daily life. In the Middle Ages, alcohol was a common part of daily life, often safer to drink than water. However, this didn’t mean everyone got a free pass when it came to booze — drunkenness was usually frowned upon.
  • Distillation and stronger spirits. The development of distillation in the 12th century led to stronger forms of alcohol. This period saw an increase in alcohol abuse, leading to a wider recognition of its health impacts.

19th Century: The Temperance Movement

  • Rising concerns. The 1800s saw a growing concern over alcohol abuse. The Temperance Movement, aimed at reducing alcohol consumption, gained momentum in Europe and America.
  • Early treatment attempts. This period also saw the opening of the first inebriate asylums and the use of early treatment methods, although they were rudimentary by today’s standards.

20th Century: Medical Understanding and Modern Treatment

  • AUD as a medical condition. It was only in the 20th century that AUD began to be understood as a medical condition. The American Medical Association declared alcoholism an illness in 1956.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Founded in 1935, AA introduced the concept of peer support in recovery — a significant shift in treatment approach.

21st Century: Advances in Treatment and Awareness

  • Modern treatments. Today, we have many treatments for AUD, ranging from medication-assisted therapies to comprehensive rehabilitation programs.
  • Increased awareness. There's a greater understanding of the complexity of AUD, with all of its psychological, social, and genetic factors — which we will now explore in more detail.

Part 2: Why Do People Become Alcoholics

As we know today, a lot of the “why” behind AUD (a preferred term over alcoholism these days) has to do with our brains, which — amazing and complex as they are — are prone to being hijacked by certain processes.

Alcohol disrupts the delicate balance of our brain chemicals, and regular heavy drinking changes our neural pathways, leading to dependence. It's a mix of genetics, mental health, and our environment.

  • Dopamine and the feel-good factor. Our brains release dopamine, a chemical that motivates us to seek out and repeat enjoyable activities, including drinking. However, alcohol: gives the brain a dopamine overload. Over time, the brain starts thinking, “Hey, I need alcohol to release dopamine!” and that’s where the addiction cycle — and dependency — begins.
  • The reward system. Alcohol affects the brain's reward circuits within our limbic system which are designed to remember activities that make us feel good, encouraging us to do them again. It's a survival mechanism but, with alcohol, it gets hijacked.
  • Altered brain structure. Heavy drinking can actually change the structure of our brains, particularly in areas responsible for judgment, decision making, learning, memory, and behavior control, leading to cravings and making alcohol harder to resist.

Genetic and Environmental Factors

  • Genetics play a role. Our genes can influence our risk of developing AUD. Some people have genetic factors that affect how alcohol impacts their brain, making them more susceptible to dependency.
  • Environment matters, too. Our surroundings, life experiences, and our social circle can influence our drinking habits and the potential development of AUD.

Mental Health and AUD: A Two-Way Street 

There's also a close relationship between AUD and mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Sometimes, people use alcohol to cope with these conditions, but alcohol can also exacerbate or trigger mental health problems on its own.

Part 3: The Journey Through Alcoholism Stages

1. Early Stage: The Sneaky Beginnings

Recognizing the early stage of alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be tricky, but it's super important. Let’s break down what this early stage really looks like.

Subtle Shifts

It usually starts small — maybe drinking a bit more or more often than we used to. The reasons for our drinking might also start to change.

  • Increased frequency and quantity. What used to be a weekend thing might now edge into the weekdays as well. And the number of drinks? That can start to creep up as well.
  • Drinking for different reasons. Initially, we might have a drink socially, but now, there might be a shift. Maybe we find ourselves reaching for a drink after a stressful day or to ease some anxiety.
  • Change in social settings. We might start preferring events or places where alcohol is available. Sometimes, there’s a gradual shift from enjoying the social aspect to focusing more on the drinking itself.
  • Feedback from friends or family. Loved ones might start noticing changes, even if they mention them casually. Comments like “You’re having another one?” can be early indicators.

Physical and Emotional Changes

  • Needing more to feel the same effects. This is a big one. As the body gets used to alcohol, it needs more to feel the same buzz or relaxation. This increase in tolerance is a clear biological sign of the body adapting to more regular alcohol use.
  • Mood swings and irritability. Fluctuations in mood, especially irritability or frustration, can become more common. These can be subtle at first, but they're a significant sign that alcohol is starting to affect our emotions.
  • Denial or minimization. It’s common to think “I can stop anytime” or “It’s not a big deal.” These thoughts are part of the early stage, as it's hard to see the gradual increase in drinking as a problem.

Catching these early signs can be crucial. They might seem small on their own, but together, they can signal the start of a deeper issue with booze. Stay tuned as we explore the next stages!

2. Middle Stage: Increased Reliance on Alcohol

The middle stage of AUD is often a wake-up call. It’s when the effects of alcohol use become more tangible in everyday life — we might start dropping the ball at work and in our personal life, and booze becomes more of a need. We might even start drinking alone or keeping our drinking a secret.

At this point, the signs become more apparent. Recognizing them is key to understanding where we are on the spectrum.

  • Regular cravings. Unlike the early stage when drinking might have been more spontaneous, now there's a noticeable pattern — cravings for alcohol are a regular, if not daily, thing.
  • Drinking becomes a priority. We might find ourselves planning our day around drinking or looking forward to it as the highlight of our day. Booze becomes a staple for celebrations, and alcohol-free fun sounds like an oxymoron. 

Physical and Mental Health Symptoms

  • Increased tolerance. Just as in the early stage, our tolerance continues to increase in a way that’s more pronounced. We need even more alcohol to feel the effects.
  • Early withdrawal symptoms. When we’re not drinking, we might start getting mild withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, or shakiness.
  • Noticeable health changes. We might start noticing physical symptoms, such as sleep disturbances, digestive problems, or unexplained aches and pains. There could also be shifts in appetite or weight.
  • Mental fog and memory issues. Difficulty concentrating, mental fog, or occasional memory lapses become more common.

Behavioral Changes

  • Neglecting responsibilities. This might be one of the more evident changes — maybe our work performance slips, or we’re not as engaged in family or social responsibilities as we used to be.
  • Withdrawal from social activities. Pulling away from social gatherings that don’t involve booze or losing interest in hobbies that used to be enjoyable is often a red flag.
  • Secretive behavior about drinking. We might start hiding how much we’re drinking, feel guilty about it, or lie about our alcohol consumption to friends and family.
  • Defensive responses to concerns. When others express worry about our drinking, we might react defensively or downplay their concerns.

3. Advanced Stage: Deepening Dependency on Alcohol

This stage is the toughest, but understanding it is crucial for taking the right steps toward recovery. Alcohol often becomes the central part of our life. It's not just about craving it anymore — it's about needing it to function. Controlling our drinking becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible. We might find ourselves drinking more than we intended, and for longer periods. Sooner or later, our life might start crashing down around us, carrying us to the dreaded “rock bottom” people in recovery circles sometimes talk about. 

More Severe Health Impacts

Our day revolves around drinking, and not drinking can actually make us feel physically sick. This takes a serious toll on our health — both mentally and physically.

  • Intense withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms might now include tremors, hallucinations, and seizures. This is why medical supervision is critical during detoxification.
  • Physical health concerns. The toll on our body becomes more apparent. This can include liver damage, heart problems, or digestive issues. Our immune system might also take a hit, making us more susceptible to illnesses.
  • Mental health struggles. Mental health can seriously be affected. We might experience bouts of depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.

Impact on Personal and Professional Life

Life gets rocky, as our relationships, job, and health take a serious hit. We might even run into legal problems or put ourselves in serious danger.

  • Strained relationships. Personal relationships might suffer significantly, leading to conflicts with family, friends, or partners.
  • Professional consequences. Work performance often declines, which can lead to job loss or strained professional relationships.
  • Increased risk-taking. There’s often a rise in risky behaviors, like drinking and driving, or putting ourselves in dangerous situations while under the influence.
  • Legal issues. Legal problems can crop up at this stage, whether due to DUIs, public intoxication, or other alcohol-related offenses.

The advanced stage of AUD is serious, but it’s not the end of the road. With the right support and treatment, recovery is absolutely possible! It’s about taking that brave step to seek help and starting the journey towards a healthier, alcohol-free life.

Part 4: Treatment and Support for Each Stage: A Map to Recovery

1. In the Early Stage: Getting a Grip

  • Track your triggers. Keep a note of what makes you want to drink. The goal isn’t to judge — think of yourself as a scientist gathering information about your drinking habits.
  • Make small changes. Set some goals for cutting back. Maybe you’ll skip that second drink or avoid situations where you're tempted to overdo it.
  • Switch it up. Replace drinking with something healthier, like a new hobby or exercise.
  • Stress less. Try some chill-out techniques — meditation, yoga, or just deep breathing.
  • Finding your tribe. Support groups rock! There's strength in numbers and shared experiences. Groups like the Reframe community can feel like finding your long-lost family. They get it, because they're there too.
  • Chatting with a pro. Sometimes, talking to a therapist who knows their stuff about addiction can give you some seriously good tips and tricks. In other cases, a healthcare provider can offer the best advice.

2. In the Middle Stage: Stepping It Up

  • Outpatient programs. Think of these as workshops where you get to learn, share, and still sleep in your own bed.
  • Medication options. Some meds can help take the edge off those cravings or make withdrawal less difficult.
  • Regular heart-to-hearts. Keep those therapy sessions going. It's like having a coach in your corner, helping you figure out the mental game.
  • Bringing in the fam. Sometimes, bringing your family into the loop can help. They’re part of your world, and they can be part of your support system too.

3. In the Advanced Stage: Pulling Out All the Stops

  • Detox with the docs. If withdrawal is rough, doing it under medical supervision can make it safer and less scary. Consider going to a detox facility or, perhaps, residential or inpatient treatment. Think of it as a time-out for your health — it's all about getting better.
  • Planning for the long haul. After rehab, it's all about staying on track. This means ongoing support, maybe some therapy, and strategies to keep you steady.
  • Whole-person wellness. Mix in some yoga, meditation, or whatever makes you feel centered and whole. Treating your body right is key!

What's Next?

As we can see, each stage of AUD has its own challenges and solutions. Find the right fit for you, and remember that reaching out for help is always a smart move.

Tackling AUD is a big deal. We're all in this together, and we're rooting for you every step of the way! Let's take this journey to recovery one day at a time.

Binge Drinking
2023-12-28 9:00
Binge Drinking
Why Do You Wake Up Early After Drinking?
This is some text inside of a div block.

Unravel the mysteries of waking up early after drinking—explore the science, causes, and tips for a restful night's sleep.

18 min read

Ready To Have Better Rest After Drinking? Try Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

Read Full Article  →

You pick up a drink, hoping it will give you a good night’s rest. Then you find yourself awake before dawn, unable to fall back asleep again. So why does this happen? Is it a sign that something is wrong? But also, isn’t alcohol supposed to help us get better rest? Let’s explore some potential reasons why you might wake up so early after drinking.

The Science of Sleep and Alcohol

Alcohol has many negative impacts on our sleep, affecting our sleep cycle and brain chemistry. Understanding the science of sleep and its interaction with alcohol involves exploring the impact of alcohol on various physiological and neurological processes. Here's a detailed look at the science behind sleep and alcohol: 

Neurotransmitter effects. Alcohol enhances the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that inhibits brain activity. This results in a sedative effect, making it easier to fall asleep initially. Alcohol also inhibits the release of glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter. This further contributes to the calming and sedative effects.

Sleep architecture disruption. While alcohol can initially shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, it reduces our REM sleep, a critical phase for memory consolidation and emotional processing. Alcohol can disrupt the normal progression through sleep cycles, leading to fragmented sleep with more awakenings during the night.

How Alcohol Disrupts the Sleep Cycle

Alcohol disrupts the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep, which is important for a restful sleep. As the alcohol wears off, your body can rebound from the deep sleep stage to lighter sleep stages, causing you to wake up earlier. 

Alcohol also interferes with the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. This disruption can shift the circadian rhythm, confusing the body’s natural sense of day and night. As our internal clock becomes disrupted, the signals that tell us when to wake up and when to sleep are affected, leading to difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep, and often resulting in early morning awakenings.

While one or two nights with diminished REM sleep is not as concerning, continual disturbance is harmful. Nights of alcohol consumption and suppressed REM sleep can add up — leading to something called REM rebound. During this phase, the brain attempts to make up for the lost REM sleep, leading to more extended, more frequent REM stages. It might sound intriguing to be able to dream more, but it can actually lead to sleep disruptions, nightmares, or waking up with a sense of grogginess. 

Other Physiological Causes

1. Dehydration


  • Diuretic effect. Alcohol inhibits the release of vasopressin, an antidiuretic hormone that helps the body reabsorb water. With less vasopressin, the kidneys send more water directly to the bladder, resulting in increased urine production.

  • Increased thirst and bathroom trips. The body’s response to losing fluids can lead to waking up thirsty or needing to urinate during the night. It might cause you to wake up feeling thirsty or needing to go to the bathroom.This not only disrupts sleep but can also lead to a headache, dry mouth, and dizziness once you are awake. 

  • Chemical imbalance. The more we urinate, the more we’re also losing vital salts and minerals like potassium and sodium, which are important for our muscle function, energy, and even brain activity.

  • Other nasties. Dehydration also compounds other symptoms caused by a bad night’s rest, like causing headaches, dry skin, and fatigue. 

2. Blood Sugar Levels


  • Hypoglycemia. Drinking can affect your blood sugar levels. Alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to fall, especially if consumed on an empty stomach or in large quantities. The liver, which normally releases stored glucose to maintain blood sugar levels, is busy metabolizing alcohol and fails to regulate blood sugar effectively.

  • Energy deficiency. A drop in blood sugar may cause the body to release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which signal the brain to wake up, leading to interrupted sleep.

3. Withdrawal Effect


  • Rebound stimulation. As the sedative effect of alcohol wears off, the central nervous system can go into a state of hyperarousal, a form of withdrawal. This may result in restlessness, sweating, and increased heart rate, causing you to awaken prematurely.

  • Anxiety and discomfort. The withdrawal symptoms can also include psychological effects like anxiety or agitation, making it harder for us to fall back asleep. Frustratingly, the more we try to fall back asleep without success, the more agitated we become, and the more awake we are. 

4. Rebound Effect


  • Withdrawal symptoms. As the sedative effects of alcohol wear off, the central nervous system can experience a rebound effect, leading to increased arousal, restlessness, and potentially early morning awakenings. 

  • Alcohol use disorder (AUD). Persistent and heavy alcohol consumption can lead to the development of AUD, characterized by a lack of control over alcohol intake, continued use despite negative consequences, and physical and psychological dependence. People with AUD may experience withdrawal symptoms, including heightened arousal and insomnia, when trying to cut back or quit alcohol.

5. Sleep-Related Breathing Issues

  • Sleep disorders. If you already have an existing sleep disorder, like insomnia or sleep apnea, alcohol can worsen the symptoms, making those sporadic awakenings even more frequent.
  • Increased sleep apnea risk. Alcohol relaxes the muscles in the throat, increasing the risk of snoring and exacerbating sleep apnea symptoms. These disruptions can lead to more frequent awakenings during the night. They also lead to other health implications, including increased risks of type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart attack. 

6. Body Temperature

  • Initial increase. Alcohol causes peripheral vasodilation, which means it expands blood vessels near the skin's surface, leading to a temporary increase in body temperature.
  • Subsequent drop. But don’t let the warmth deceive you! Later in the night, as the blood alcohol level drops, the opposite effect occurs, leading to a decrease in body temperature, which can disrupt the body’s natural sleep regulation and cause you to wake up. You might find yourself tossing and turning on your bed, waking up either drenched in sweat or reaching for an extra blanket.
  • Night sweats. After drinking alcohol, night sweats are very common. They leave us waking up clammy and disrupt the quality of our sleep. It’s never pleasant to wake up to damp sheets and a disoriented head!

7. Tolerance and Dependence

  • Development of tolerance. Regular alcohol consumption can lead to the development of tolerance, requiring higher amounts to achieve the same sedative effects. This tolerance can contribute to a cycle of increased alcohol intake and disrupted sleep.
  • Physical and psychological dependence. Dependence on alcohol can manifest as both physical and psychological reliance on its sedative effects to initiate sleep. You may find it hard to fall asleep without the aid of alcohol once you’ve become dependent on it. 

8. Individual Variability

  • How will you be affected? Individual responses to alcohol and its effects on sleep can vary. Factors such as tolerance, genetics, and overall health each play a role in how alcohol influences your sleep patterns.

The combined effects of these factors can result in fragmented and poor-quality sleep, often causing us to wake up before we’re fully rested. It's important to be mindful of alcohol consumption, especially before bedtime, to promote better sleep health. 

Long-Term Effects

Regularly consuming alcohol before bedtime can have long-term consequences that go beyond waking up early in the morning. 

  • Disrupted sleep cycle. Over time, relying on that evening drink to induce sleep can lead to a problematic cycle. We drink for sleep, but the quality of that sleep diminishes, prompting us to repeat the cycle in the hope of improved results. In the long term, this can disrupt our natural sleep-wake cycle. Regular alcohol intake can result in a consistent decrease in REM sleep over time. This decline can adversely affect cognitive functions, memory, and mood in the long run.

  • Building tolerance. Our bodies adapt, and regular drinking may require increasing amounts to achieve the same sedative effect. This tolerance leads to higher alcohol consumption, affecting our sleep and health.

  • Aging and alcohol. As we age, our body's ability to metabolize alcohol changes. What had little impact on sleep in our 20s may significantly disrupt sleep in our 40s or 50s. 

How To Have Better Sleep 

  • Time your drinking. If you're accustomed to consuming alcohol close to bedtime, consider gradually increasing the time gap between your last drink and bedtime. This allows your body more time to metabolize the alcohol before sleep, minimizing its disruptive effects on sleep cycles. Aim to stop drinking several hours before bedtime to give your body time to metabolize the alcohol. Be mindful of the quantity and type of alcohol consumed. Opt for lower-alcohol beverages, and avoid binge drinking, as excessive amounts are more likely to cause sleep disturbances.
  • Stay hydrated. Combat the dehydrating effects of alcohol by alternating each drink with a glass of water. Hydrating between drinks helps maintain a better fluid balance and reduces the likelihood of waking up thirsty during the night. Before going to sleep, ensure you are adequately hydrated by drinking a glass of water. This helps counter the dehydrating effects of alcohol and promotes a more restful sleep. 
  • Build better sleep hygiene. Make sure your sleeping environment is conducive to rest and you maintain good sleep hygiene to get a good night’s rest. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows to enhance overall sleep quality. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. This helps regulate your body's internal clock and improves the efficiency of your sleep.
  • Exercise. Engage in regular daytime exercise to deepen your sleep and potentially cushion the effects of alcohol on your sleep cycle. While regular exercise is beneficial, intense workouts close to bedtime might have stimulating effects. Try to finish exercising at least a few hours before going to sleep. 
  • Eat nutritious food. Choose evening meals and snacks that support good sleep. Foods rich in tryptophan (e.g., turkey, dairy), magnesium (e.g., nuts, leafy greens), and carbohydrates can contribute to better sleep quality. 
  • Practice mindfulness. Incorporate mindfulness and relaxation techniques into your bedtime routine. Activities such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or gentle stretching can help calm the mind and prepare the body for sleep. 
  • Track your sleep. Maintain a sleep journal to track your drinking habits and sleep patterns. This awareness can help you identify trends and make informed decisions about adjusting your alcohol consumption for better sleep. 

In Conclusion

Quality sleep is fundamental to our well-being. Waking up too early after drinking is a sign of alcohol disrupting our normal sleep cycle; it means your body needs to regain balance. Although the occasional drink might appear to facilitate falling asleep, it quietly disrupts things behind the scenes. For better rest and a more energized day, consider putting down your drinks the night before. Your body will thank you in the morning! 

You pick up a drink, hoping it will give you a good night’s rest. Then you find yourself awake before dawn, unable to fall back asleep again. So why does this happen? Is it a sign that something is wrong? But also, isn’t alcohol supposed to help us get better rest? Let’s explore some potential reasons why you might wake up so early after drinking.

The Science of Sleep and Alcohol

Alcohol has many negative impacts on our sleep, affecting our sleep cycle and brain chemistry. Understanding the science of sleep and its interaction with alcohol involves exploring the impact of alcohol on various physiological and neurological processes. Here's a detailed look at the science behind sleep and alcohol: 

Neurotransmitter effects. Alcohol enhances the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that inhibits brain activity. This results in a sedative effect, making it easier to fall asleep initially. Alcohol also inhibits the release of glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter. This further contributes to the calming and sedative effects.

Sleep architecture disruption. While alcohol can initially shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, it reduces our REM sleep, a critical phase for memory consolidation and emotional processing. Alcohol can disrupt the normal progression through sleep cycles, leading to fragmented sleep with more awakenings during the night.

How Alcohol Disrupts the Sleep Cycle

Alcohol disrupts the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep, which is important for a restful sleep. As the alcohol wears off, your body can rebound from the deep sleep stage to lighter sleep stages, causing you to wake up earlier. 

Alcohol also interferes with the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. This disruption can shift the circadian rhythm, confusing the body’s natural sense of day and night. As our internal clock becomes disrupted, the signals that tell us when to wake up and when to sleep are affected, leading to difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep, and often resulting in early morning awakenings.

While one or two nights with diminished REM sleep is not as concerning, continual disturbance is harmful. Nights of alcohol consumption and suppressed REM sleep can add up — leading to something called REM rebound. During this phase, the brain attempts to make up for the lost REM sleep, leading to more extended, more frequent REM stages. It might sound intriguing to be able to dream more, but it can actually lead to sleep disruptions, nightmares, or waking up with a sense of grogginess. 

Other Physiological Causes

1. Dehydration


  • Diuretic effect. Alcohol inhibits the release of vasopressin, an antidiuretic hormone that helps the body reabsorb water. With less vasopressin, the kidneys send more water directly to the bladder, resulting in increased urine production.

  • Increased thirst and bathroom trips. The body’s response to losing fluids can lead to waking up thirsty or needing to urinate during the night. It might cause you to wake up feeling thirsty or needing to go to the bathroom.This not only disrupts sleep but can also lead to a headache, dry mouth, and dizziness once you are awake. 

  • Chemical imbalance. The more we urinate, the more we’re also losing vital salts and minerals like potassium and sodium, which are important for our muscle function, energy, and even brain activity.

  • Other nasties. Dehydration also compounds other symptoms caused by a bad night’s rest, like causing headaches, dry skin, and fatigue. 

2. Blood Sugar Levels


  • Hypoglycemia. Drinking can affect your blood sugar levels. Alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to fall, especially if consumed on an empty stomach or in large quantities. The liver, which normally releases stored glucose to maintain blood sugar levels, is busy metabolizing alcohol and fails to regulate blood sugar effectively.

  • Energy deficiency. A drop in blood sugar may cause the body to release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which signal the brain to wake up, leading to interrupted sleep.

3. Withdrawal Effect


  • Rebound stimulation. As the sedative effect of alcohol wears off, the central nervous system can go into a state of hyperarousal, a form of withdrawal. This may result in restlessness, sweating, and increased heart rate, causing you to awaken prematurely.

  • Anxiety and discomfort. The withdrawal symptoms can also include psychological effects like anxiety or agitation, making it harder for us to fall back asleep. Frustratingly, the more we try to fall back asleep without success, the more agitated we become, and the more awake we are. 

4. Rebound Effect


  • Withdrawal symptoms. As the sedative effects of alcohol wear off, the central nervous system can experience a rebound effect, leading to increased arousal, restlessness, and potentially early morning awakenings. 

  • Alcohol use disorder (AUD). Persistent and heavy alcohol consumption can lead to the development of AUD, characterized by a lack of control over alcohol intake, continued use despite negative consequences, and physical and psychological dependence. People with AUD may experience withdrawal symptoms, including heightened arousal and insomnia, when trying to cut back or quit alcohol.

5. Sleep-Related Breathing Issues

  • Sleep disorders. If you already have an existing sleep disorder, like insomnia or sleep apnea, alcohol can worsen the symptoms, making those sporadic awakenings even more frequent.
  • Increased sleep apnea risk. Alcohol relaxes the muscles in the throat, increasing the risk of snoring and exacerbating sleep apnea symptoms. These disruptions can lead to more frequent awakenings during the night. They also lead to other health implications, including increased risks of type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart attack. 

6. Body Temperature

  • Initial increase. Alcohol causes peripheral vasodilation, which means it expands blood vessels near the skin's surface, leading to a temporary increase in body temperature.
  • Subsequent drop. But don’t let the warmth deceive you! Later in the night, as the blood alcohol level drops, the opposite effect occurs, leading to a decrease in body temperature, which can disrupt the body’s natural sleep regulation and cause you to wake up. You might find yourself tossing and turning on your bed, waking up either drenched in sweat or reaching for an extra blanket.
  • Night sweats. After drinking alcohol, night sweats are very common. They leave us waking up clammy and disrupt the quality of our sleep. It’s never pleasant to wake up to damp sheets and a disoriented head!

7. Tolerance and Dependence

  • Development of tolerance. Regular alcohol consumption can lead to the development of tolerance, requiring higher amounts to achieve the same sedative effects. This tolerance can contribute to a cycle of increased alcohol intake and disrupted sleep.
  • Physical and psychological dependence. Dependence on alcohol can manifest as both physical and psychological reliance on its sedative effects to initiate sleep. You may find it hard to fall asleep without the aid of alcohol once you’ve become dependent on it. 

8. Individual Variability

  • How will you be affected? Individual responses to alcohol and its effects on sleep can vary. Factors such as tolerance, genetics, and overall health each play a role in how alcohol influences your sleep patterns.

The combined effects of these factors can result in fragmented and poor-quality sleep, often causing us to wake up before we’re fully rested. It's important to be mindful of alcohol consumption, especially before bedtime, to promote better sleep health. 

Long-Term Effects

Regularly consuming alcohol before bedtime can have long-term consequences that go beyond waking up early in the morning. 

  • Disrupted sleep cycle. Over time, relying on that evening drink to induce sleep can lead to a problematic cycle. We drink for sleep, but the quality of that sleep diminishes, prompting us to repeat the cycle in the hope of improved results. In the long term, this can disrupt our natural sleep-wake cycle. Regular alcohol intake can result in a consistent decrease in REM sleep over time. This decline can adversely affect cognitive functions, memory, and mood in the long run.

  • Building tolerance. Our bodies adapt, and regular drinking may require increasing amounts to achieve the same sedative effect. This tolerance leads to higher alcohol consumption, affecting our sleep and health.

  • Aging and alcohol. As we age, our body's ability to metabolize alcohol changes. What had little impact on sleep in our 20s may significantly disrupt sleep in our 40s or 50s. 

How To Have Better Sleep 

  • Time your drinking. If you're accustomed to consuming alcohol close to bedtime, consider gradually increasing the time gap between your last drink and bedtime. This allows your body more time to metabolize the alcohol before sleep, minimizing its disruptive effects on sleep cycles. Aim to stop drinking several hours before bedtime to give your body time to metabolize the alcohol. Be mindful of the quantity and type of alcohol consumed. Opt for lower-alcohol beverages, and avoid binge drinking, as excessive amounts are more likely to cause sleep disturbances.
  • Stay hydrated. Combat the dehydrating effects of alcohol by alternating each drink with a glass of water. Hydrating between drinks helps maintain a better fluid balance and reduces the likelihood of waking up thirsty during the night. Before going to sleep, ensure you are adequately hydrated by drinking a glass of water. This helps counter the dehydrating effects of alcohol and promotes a more restful sleep. 
  • Build better sleep hygiene. Make sure your sleeping environment is conducive to rest and you maintain good sleep hygiene to get a good night’s rest. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows to enhance overall sleep quality. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. This helps regulate your body's internal clock and improves the efficiency of your sleep.
  • Exercise. Engage in regular daytime exercise to deepen your sleep and potentially cushion the effects of alcohol on your sleep cycle. While regular exercise is beneficial, intense workouts close to bedtime might have stimulating effects. Try to finish exercising at least a few hours before going to sleep. 
  • Eat nutritious food. Choose evening meals and snacks that support good sleep. Foods rich in tryptophan (e.g., turkey, dairy), magnesium (e.g., nuts, leafy greens), and carbohydrates can contribute to better sleep quality. 
  • Practice mindfulness. Incorporate mindfulness and relaxation techniques into your bedtime routine. Activities such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or gentle stretching can help calm the mind and prepare the body for sleep. 
  • Track your sleep. Maintain a sleep journal to track your drinking habits and sleep patterns. This awareness can help you identify trends and make informed decisions about adjusting your alcohol consumption for better sleep. 

In Conclusion

Quality sleep is fundamental to our well-being. Waking up too early after drinking is a sign of alcohol disrupting our normal sleep cycle; it means your body needs to regain balance. Although the occasional drink might appear to facilitate falling asleep, it quietly disrupts things behind the scenes. For better rest and a more energized day, consider putting down your drinks the night before. Your body will thank you in the morning! 

Binge Drinking
2023-10-26 9:00
Binge Drinking
What Happens If You Drink 6 Beers a Day?
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What are the health implications of consuming six beers a day? Beyond the temporary relaxation and sociability, heavy drinking can lead to several health issues: weight gain, liver damage, cardiovascular disease, alcohol dependence, mental health issues, digestive problems, and increased cancer risk. We provide a detailed look at each of these risks, emphasizing the need for moderation and mindful drinking.

9 min read

Change Your Drinking Habits With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

Many of us enjoy a refreshing brew from time to time. It's a means of winding down after a busy day, a social lubricant that leads to conversation and shared laughter. The taste, the bubbles, and the accompanying sense of relaxation can make it easy to lose track of just how many we've had. But what happens when this casual habit morphs into drinking six beers a day, every day?

Six Beers a Day: The Aftereffects Aren’t Pretty

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moderate drinking is defined as two standard drinks per day (or less) for men and one standard drink per day (or less) for women. A standard drink in the United States is equivalent to 14 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol, the amount typically found in a 12-ounce beer. When we consistently consume six beers a day, we're well into the realm of heavy drinking and alcohol misuse.

When we consistently drink in excess, the health implications can be both acute and chronic. Here are seven potential health impacts of drinking six (or more) beers a day. 

Weight Gain 

A standard beer carries around 150 calories. When we consume six beers, we're looking at an intake of approximately 900 extra calories a day. Over a week, that totals up to an extra 6,300 calories! Given that it takes approximately 3,500 extra calories to gain a pound, we could be looking at a potential weight gain of up to two pounds a week, if all other factors remain constant. The beer belly isn't a myth; it's the result of this high-caloric intake. And with extra weight gain comes an array of associated health issues — risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.

Visual representation of daily six beer consumption effects
Liver Damage

Our liver is responsible for breaking down alcohol and removing it from our bodies. But there's only so much it can process at a time. Drinking six beers a day can overload our liver, leading to alcohol-induced liver disease. This condition presents itself in three stages: fatty liver, alcohol-induced hepatitis, and cirrhosis, each more severe than the previous. Cirrhosis, the final stage, is a potentially life-threatening condition in which the liver is significantly scarred and its function severely compromised.

Cardiovascular Disease

Consuming six beers a day can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure), one of the most important risk factors for premature death due to its role in promoting conditions like heart disease and stroke. Additionally, heavy alcohol use can also lead to cardiomyopathy: the heart muscle weakens, preventing the heart from pumping blood efficiently.

Alcohol Dependence

Drinking six beers a day can lead to increased tolerance, making us drink more to feel the same effects — a surefire path towards alcohol dependence. As dependence progresses, we may feel a compulsive need to drink and experience withdrawal symptoms (tremors, hallucinations, and seizures) if we stop. Dependence can take a massive toll on our personal lives, affecting relationships, work, and our overall quality of life.

Mental Health Issues

Mental health and alcohol consumption have a complex relationship. Alcohol might seem like a temporary escape from feelings of anxiety or depressive thoughts, but in reality, it can exacerbate these issues. Heavy drinking can lead to increased risk of mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety disorders. Furthermore, alcohol is a depressant, which means it can disrupt the balance of chemicals in our brain, leading to changes in our mood, thinking, behavior, and coordination.

Digestive Problems

Alcohol starts affecting our digestive system the moment it enters our mouth. Drinking six beers a day can lead to issues like gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). Moreover, alcohol can disrupt the gut's microbiome, leading to a range of gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, and discomfort.

Increased Cancer Risk

Regular, heavy drinking increases the risk of several types of cancer, including oral, esophagus, larynx, liver, colon, and even breast cancer. While the mechanisms linking alcohol to cancer are not fully understood, acetaldehyde, the harmful chemical alcohol becomes in our body, is believed to be carcinogenic.

Key Points To Keep in Mind

While a single beer may seem innocuous, the cumulative effect of regularly drinking six beers a day can bring about these potential health risks, painting a troubling picture. Yet, it's important to remember that awareness is the first step towards change. With this understanding, we can make informed decisions about our alcohol consumption.

This doesn't mean we need to eliminate beer from our lives completely. Enjoying a chilled bottle on a hot day or celebrating a milestone with friends is perfectly fine, if that’s what we choose to do. The key is moderation. By being mindful of our consumption, understanding the risks associated with heavy drinking, and seeking help if needed, we can ensure our relationship with alcohol is balanced.

There's no escaping the fact that we are social beings, and alcohol often plays a role in our socialization. But the potential health implications of heavy drinking serve as a crucial reminder of the need for mindful drinking. It's our responsibility to take care of our health, to ensure that our lives are not just filled with years, but our years are filled with life.

Many of us enjoy a refreshing brew from time to time. It's a means of winding down after a busy day, a social lubricant that leads to conversation and shared laughter. The taste, the bubbles, and the accompanying sense of relaxation can make it easy to lose track of just how many we've had. But what happens when this casual habit morphs into drinking six beers a day, every day?

Six Beers a Day: The Aftereffects Aren’t Pretty

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moderate drinking is defined as two standard drinks per day (or less) for men and one standard drink per day (or less) for women. A standard drink in the United States is equivalent to 14 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol, the amount typically found in a 12-ounce beer. When we consistently consume six beers a day, we're well into the realm of heavy drinking and alcohol misuse.

When we consistently drink in excess, the health implications can be both acute and chronic. Here are seven potential health impacts of drinking six (or more) beers a day. 

Weight Gain 

A standard beer carries around 150 calories. When we consume six beers, we're looking at an intake of approximately 900 extra calories a day. Over a week, that totals up to an extra 6,300 calories! Given that it takes approximately 3,500 extra calories to gain a pound, we could be looking at a potential weight gain of up to two pounds a week, if all other factors remain constant. The beer belly isn't a myth; it's the result of this high-caloric intake. And with extra weight gain comes an array of associated health issues — risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.

Visual representation of daily six beer consumption effects
Liver Damage

Our liver is responsible for breaking down alcohol and removing it from our bodies. But there's only so much it can process at a time. Drinking six beers a day can overload our liver, leading to alcohol-induced liver disease. This condition presents itself in three stages: fatty liver, alcohol-induced hepatitis, and cirrhosis, each more severe than the previous. Cirrhosis, the final stage, is a potentially life-threatening condition in which the liver is significantly scarred and its function severely compromised.

Cardiovascular Disease

Consuming six beers a day can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure), one of the most important risk factors for premature death due to its role in promoting conditions like heart disease and stroke. Additionally, heavy alcohol use can also lead to cardiomyopathy: the heart muscle weakens, preventing the heart from pumping blood efficiently.

Alcohol Dependence

Drinking six beers a day can lead to increased tolerance, making us drink more to feel the same effects — a surefire path towards alcohol dependence. As dependence progresses, we may feel a compulsive need to drink and experience withdrawal symptoms (tremors, hallucinations, and seizures) if we stop. Dependence can take a massive toll on our personal lives, affecting relationships, work, and our overall quality of life.

Mental Health Issues

Mental health and alcohol consumption have a complex relationship. Alcohol might seem like a temporary escape from feelings of anxiety or depressive thoughts, but in reality, it can exacerbate these issues. Heavy drinking can lead to increased risk of mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety disorders. Furthermore, alcohol is a depressant, which means it can disrupt the balance of chemicals in our brain, leading to changes in our mood, thinking, behavior, and coordination.

Digestive Problems

Alcohol starts affecting our digestive system the moment it enters our mouth. Drinking six beers a day can lead to issues like gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). Moreover, alcohol can disrupt the gut's microbiome, leading to a range of gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, and discomfort.

Increased Cancer Risk

Regular, heavy drinking increases the risk of several types of cancer, including oral, esophagus, larynx, liver, colon, and even breast cancer. While the mechanisms linking alcohol to cancer are not fully understood, acetaldehyde, the harmful chemical alcohol becomes in our body, is believed to be carcinogenic.

Key Points To Keep in Mind

While a single beer may seem innocuous, the cumulative effect of regularly drinking six beers a day can bring about these potential health risks, painting a troubling picture. Yet, it's important to remember that awareness is the first step towards change. With this understanding, we can make informed decisions about our alcohol consumption.

This doesn't mean we need to eliminate beer from our lives completely. Enjoying a chilled bottle on a hot day or celebrating a milestone with friends is perfectly fine, if that’s what we choose to do. The key is moderation. By being mindful of our consumption, understanding the risks associated with heavy drinking, and seeking help if needed, we can ensure our relationship with alcohol is balanced.

There's no escaping the fact that we are social beings, and alcohol often plays a role in our socialization. But the potential health implications of heavy drinking serve as a crucial reminder of the need for mindful drinking. It's our responsibility to take care of our health, to ensure that our lives are not just filled with years, but our years are filled with life.

Binge Drinking
2023-10-26 9:00
Binge Drinking
Blackout Wednesday: The Unofficial Start of Thanksgiving Celebrations
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Wondering what “Blackout Wednesday” is all about? Navigate the pre-Thanksgiving drinking trend with our latest science-backed guide on mindful celebration!

19 min read

Say Goodbye to Blackouts With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

The bustling energy of Thanksgiving is in the air, and with it comes Blackout Wednesday. Before you're caught up in the whirlwind of festivities, let's explore what Blackout Wednesday is, and why it might be a tricky time for those striving to reduce or quit alcohol.

Booze and Holidays

It’s no secret that alcohol is a big part of holiday celebrations in many cultures. The festive spirit of holidays often goes hand in hand with a glass of bubbly or a cocktail. But why? 

  • The historical link. Many holidays have deep-rooted traditions, and alcohol has been part of many celebrations for centuries. For instance, during ancient Roman festivals, wine was consumed in large quantities as part of the revelry. Over time, these traditions have evolved, and while the reasons for drinking might have changed, the association between holidays and alcohol — for better or worse — has endured.
  • Social expectations. During holidays, there's often more pressure to conform to societal norms and traditions: making toasts, sharing a bottle of wine during a holiday meal, or attending parties where booze flows freely. The expectation to join in can be strong, and those who are abstaining or cutting back can feel out of place.
  • Emotional amplification. Holidays can elicit a mixture of feelings. The joy of reuniting with loved ones, the stress of preparations, the decades of unspoken tensions, or the pang of nostalgia can all amp up our emotional state. For some, alcohol becomes a way to enhance positive feelings or numb the negative ones.

However, holidays don’t necessarily equal booze for everyone — in recent years, many have embraced the alcohol-free vacation tradition. The sober tourism trend, coupled with a rising trend in sober festivities, has helped set the stage for new traditions marked by more meaningful, buzz-free (and hangover-free!) celebrations.

What Is Blackout Wednesday?

Blackout Wednesday, sometimes also referred to as Drinksgiving, falls on the night before Thanksgiving. On this night, many people — particularly college students and young adults — indulge in heavy drinking. But what exactly is this day, and why has it become such a focal point, especially among the younger generation?

Historically, this phenomenon could be attributed to the fact that many folks return home for Thanksgiving and spend time with old friends before the official holiday, which often leads to sharing a few drinks or going to a neighborhood bar together.

While the tradition of meeting up with friends during the holidays has been around for years, Blackout Wednesday — a term that gained traction in the 2010s — goes a bit further. It refers to excessive drinking that sometimes leads people to experience "blackouts" or memory lapses

Several factors contribute to Blackout Wednesday's prominence:

  • College students coming home. One of the busiest travel periods in the U.S., the Thanksgiving holiday sees millions of college students returning to their hometowns for a long weekend before heading back to face final exams. This migration often results in impromptu reunions with old friends and classmates to blow off steam on the night before — ones that can quickly turn into boozy celebrations.
  • A breather before the Big Day. Thanksgiving Day itself is typically packed with family commitments, cooking marathons, and other responsibilities. For many — especially for the younger crowd — Blackout Wednesday offers a chance to let loose and enjoy a night off before the familial obligations.
  • No work on Thursday. With most people off work for Thanksgiving Day, the consequences of nursing a hangover are less daunting, leading some to drink more than they would on a typical weekday night.

The Concerns

While Blackout Wednesday is often considered a fun-filled kickoff to the holiday season, it's not without its downsides.

  • Health implications. Binge drinking can have severe health consequences — both immediate (such as alcohol poisoning, dehydration, and hangovers) and long-term (liver damage or risk of dependency).
  • The brain and dependency. Alcohol triggers the release of dopamine — a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. Over time, our brain starts to anticipate this dopamine rush with the consumption of alcohol. On days like Blackout Wednesday, when the environment is already primed for celebration, this anticipation can be even stronger.
  • Safety concerns. Alcohol affects the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for decision-making and impulse control. As a result, after a few drinks, our ability to make rational decisions diminishes, increasing the likelihood of consuming more alcohol than intended and raising the risk of accidents, injuries, and driving under the influence. As a result, the holidays often see a spike in alcohol-related incidents, including drunk driving.
  • Emotional and mental well-being. While some view the night as a way to reconnect and have fun, excessive drinking can exacerbate loneliness, anxiety, and depression for others. Besides, holidays as a whole tend to stir a mix of emotions — be it nostalgia, happiness, sadness, or stress — and alcohol can be mistakenly viewed as a solution to cope or amplify certain feelings, leading to overindulgence. For those already grappling with mental health challenges, excessive alcohol can exacerbate symptoms.
  • Social pressure. The atmosphere surrounding Blackout Wednesday, while festive, can release a swarm of vulnerabilities. When surrounded by old friends or peers who are drinking, the pressure to join in and not feel left out can be immense, overriding personal intentions or boundaries set around alcohol consumption.
Alcohol-Free Thanksgiving Traditions

Stepping Back

Blackout Wednesday has grown in cultural significance, but it also brings unique challenges, especially for those navigating their relationship with alcohol. The hype around Blackout Wednesday can be especially challenging for those trying to limit or eliminate alcohol. The combination of drinking, social expectations, and the pressures that sometimes come with holidays can create a dangerous whirlpool of emotions and potential triggers.

One way to approach this potential minefield is to take a broader approach, seeing the bigger picture of celebrating and connecting with friends.

Is It Possible To Celebrate Booze-Free? You Bet!

Alcohol is a common celebratory component, but it's certainly not the only way to celebrate! Many societies have rich, alcohol-free traditions that bring communities together and foster a sense of unity and joy. Here are some delightful examples from around the world:

  • Sweden: Midsummer Day. Midsummer in Sweden is a celebration of the longest day of the year. People gather in open fields to dance around the maypole, sing traditional songs, and enjoy a festive meal. Alcohol-free berry drinks — especially made from strawberries — are a popular treat during this celebration.
  • Mexico: Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). This iconic Mexican tradition is a time to remember and celebrate deceased loved ones. Families create colorful altars filled with photographs, candles, and favorite foods of the departed. A special treat during this festival is pan de muerto — a sweet bread enjoyed with hot chocolate. Recently, special non-alcoholic beverages made in honor of the Day of the Dead have served as an additional booze-free alternative.
  • New Zealand: Matariki (Maori New Year). Matariki marks the rise of the Pleiades star cluster and the beginning of the Maori New Year. It's a time of renewal and remembrance. Families come together to share stories, sing, dance, and fly kites. In 2022, a concert organized as part of the Matariki celebration was designated an alcohol-free event
  • Indonesia: Waisak (Vesak Day). Waisak is the most significant Buddhist festival in Indonesia, celebrating Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and death. Taking place at the Borobudur temple, thousands join a procession, light candles, and release lanterns into the night sky, symbolizing enlightenment for the world. The celebration itself is alcohol-free, and hotels, bars, and restaurants actually stop serving booze altogether during this holiday. 

Tips for Navigating Blackout Wednesday Without Booze

Staying on track doesn’t have to mean missing out on the fun! With some intentional planning and a mindful approach, you can have an enjoyable Blackout Wednesday without compromising your goals.

  • Plan ahead. Determine your strategy before the day arrives. If you plan to attend a gathering, consider letting a trusted friend know about your intentions to avoid alcohol. They can be a source of support and understanding.
  • Set clear intentions. Before the festivities begin, outline what you hope to achieve from the night. Is it catching up with old friends, having a fun evening, or perhaps even challenging yourself to stick to a specific drink limit?
  • Stay present. By staying in the moment, you can better gauge your emotions, recognize when you might be drinking as a coping mechanism, and make more informed decisions.
  • Have an alcohol-free drink in hand. If you're at a party, a non-alcoholic beverage in your hand can prevent others from offering you alcoholic drinks. There are many delightful mocktail recipes available that can make you feel like you're still part of the festivities.
  • Focus on connections. Despite its name, Blackout Wednesday is about reuniting with old friends. Prioritize meaningful conversations and catching up. It's the company, not the alcohol, that makes these reunions memorable.
  • Prioritize self-care. Emotions can run high during the holidays. Make time for activities that help you relax and destress. Anything from reading a book, taking a long bath, or practicing meditation could do the trick.
  • Educate yourself. The more you know about alcohol’s effects on the brain and body, the more empowered you'll be to make informed choices. Numerous books, documentaries, and online resources delve into this subject.
  • Remember your “why.” Keep a list of reasons why you chose to cut back or quit alcohol. Reflecting on these reasons can bolster your resolve, especially during challenging times.
  • Seek support. Sharing your intentions with a trusted friend or family member can provide a valuable support system, helping you stay on track.

Why not start a new Blackout Wednesday tradition that doesn't revolve around alcohol? Here are some ideas:

  • DIY craft night. Blackout Wednesday can transform into a night of creativity! From hand-painted Thanksgiving centerpieces to handwritten gratitude cards, there's joy in creating something together.
  • Game marathon. Dust off those board games or video games and host a friendly competition. Whether it's Settlers of Catan or a round of charades, a game marathon can become a beloved annual tradition.
  • Blackout Wednesday vision board. Create a vision board for friends and family members to list their goals for the coming year. In addition to serving as inspiration, it can become a great time capsule to look back on for years to come!
  • Outdoor adventure. Organize a nighttime hike with lanterns, go on a scenic drive, or host a campfire evening with s'mores and storytelling.
  • Memory sharing. Designate some time during Thanksgiving dinner for everyone to share a cherished memory from the past year or a hope for the year to come. This meaningful activity allows for reflection and deepens bonds.
  • Volunteering together. Transform Blackout Wednesday or Thanksgiving Day by volunteering in the community. Whether it’s serving meals at a local shelter or organizing a neighborhood cleanup, giving back can be a fulfilling way to celebrate.
  • Home movie night. Curate a selection of family-friendly movies or documentaries to watch together. Create a cozy movie-watching space with blankets and pillows, and serve a variety of popcorn flavors and alcohol-free mocktails.

A Mindful Celebration

Blackout Wednesday, while reunion-filled and festive, can be a challenging landscape for those of us reducing or eliminating alcohol. But with preparation, mindfulness, and support, it's entirely possible to navigate the evening with joy, connection, and a clear head. Let's redefine Blackout Wednesday to be about memories made, not memories lost to excessive drinking!

The bustling energy of Thanksgiving is in the air, and with it comes Blackout Wednesday. Before you're caught up in the whirlwind of festivities, let's explore what Blackout Wednesday is, and why it might be a tricky time for those striving to reduce or quit alcohol.

Booze and Holidays

It’s no secret that alcohol is a big part of holiday celebrations in many cultures. The festive spirit of holidays often goes hand in hand with a glass of bubbly or a cocktail. But why? 

  • The historical link. Many holidays have deep-rooted traditions, and alcohol has been part of many celebrations for centuries. For instance, during ancient Roman festivals, wine was consumed in large quantities as part of the revelry. Over time, these traditions have evolved, and while the reasons for drinking might have changed, the association between holidays and alcohol — for better or worse — has endured.
  • Social expectations. During holidays, there's often more pressure to conform to societal norms and traditions: making toasts, sharing a bottle of wine during a holiday meal, or attending parties where booze flows freely. The expectation to join in can be strong, and those who are abstaining or cutting back can feel out of place.
  • Emotional amplification. Holidays can elicit a mixture of feelings. The joy of reuniting with loved ones, the stress of preparations, the decades of unspoken tensions, or the pang of nostalgia can all amp up our emotional state. For some, alcohol becomes a way to enhance positive feelings or numb the negative ones.

However, holidays don’t necessarily equal booze for everyone — in recent years, many have embraced the alcohol-free vacation tradition. The sober tourism trend, coupled with a rising trend in sober festivities, has helped set the stage for new traditions marked by more meaningful, buzz-free (and hangover-free!) celebrations.

What Is Blackout Wednesday?

Blackout Wednesday, sometimes also referred to as Drinksgiving, falls on the night before Thanksgiving. On this night, many people — particularly college students and young adults — indulge in heavy drinking. But what exactly is this day, and why has it become such a focal point, especially among the younger generation?

Historically, this phenomenon could be attributed to the fact that many folks return home for Thanksgiving and spend time with old friends before the official holiday, which often leads to sharing a few drinks or going to a neighborhood bar together.

While the tradition of meeting up with friends during the holidays has been around for years, Blackout Wednesday — a term that gained traction in the 2010s — goes a bit further. It refers to excessive drinking that sometimes leads people to experience "blackouts" or memory lapses

Several factors contribute to Blackout Wednesday's prominence:

  • College students coming home. One of the busiest travel periods in the U.S., the Thanksgiving holiday sees millions of college students returning to their hometowns for a long weekend before heading back to face final exams. This migration often results in impromptu reunions with old friends and classmates to blow off steam on the night before — ones that can quickly turn into boozy celebrations.
  • A breather before the Big Day. Thanksgiving Day itself is typically packed with family commitments, cooking marathons, and other responsibilities. For many — especially for the younger crowd — Blackout Wednesday offers a chance to let loose and enjoy a night off before the familial obligations.
  • No work on Thursday. With most people off work for Thanksgiving Day, the consequences of nursing a hangover are less daunting, leading some to drink more than they would on a typical weekday night.

The Concerns

While Blackout Wednesday is often considered a fun-filled kickoff to the holiday season, it's not without its downsides.

  • Health implications. Binge drinking can have severe health consequences — both immediate (such as alcohol poisoning, dehydration, and hangovers) and long-term (liver damage or risk of dependency).
  • The brain and dependency. Alcohol triggers the release of dopamine — a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. Over time, our brain starts to anticipate this dopamine rush with the consumption of alcohol. On days like Blackout Wednesday, when the environment is already primed for celebration, this anticipation can be even stronger.
  • Safety concerns. Alcohol affects the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for decision-making and impulse control. As a result, after a few drinks, our ability to make rational decisions diminishes, increasing the likelihood of consuming more alcohol than intended and raising the risk of accidents, injuries, and driving under the influence. As a result, the holidays often see a spike in alcohol-related incidents, including drunk driving.
  • Emotional and mental well-being. While some view the night as a way to reconnect and have fun, excessive drinking can exacerbate loneliness, anxiety, and depression for others. Besides, holidays as a whole tend to stir a mix of emotions — be it nostalgia, happiness, sadness, or stress — and alcohol can be mistakenly viewed as a solution to cope or amplify certain feelings, leading to overindulgence. For those already grappling with mental health challenges, excessive alcohol can exacerbate symptoms.
  • Social pressure. The atmosphere surrounding Blackout Wednesday, while festive, can release a swarm of vulnerabilities. When surrounded by old friends or peers who are drinking, the pressure to join in and not feel left out can be immense, overriding personal intentions or boundaries set around alcohol consumption.
Alcohol-Free Thanksgiving Traditions

Stepping Back

Blackout Wednesday has grown in cultural significance, but it also brings unique challenges, especially for those navigating their relationship with alcohol. The hype around Blackout Wednesday can be especially challenging for those trying to limit or eliminate alcohol. The combination of drinking, social expectations, and the pressures that sometimes come with holidays can create a dangerous whirlpool of emotions and potential triggers.

One way to approach this potential minefield is to take a broader approach, seeing the bigger picture of celebrating and connecting with friends.

Is It Possible To Celebrate Booze-Free? You Bet!

Alcohol is a common celebratory component, but it's certainly not the only way to celebrate! Many societies have rich, alcohol-free traditions that bring communities together and foster a sense of unity and joy. Here are some delightful examples from around the world:

  • Sweden: Midsummer Day. Midsummer in Sweden is a celebration of the longest day of the year. People gather in open fields to dance around the maypole, sing traditional songs, and enjoy a festive meal. Alcohol-free berry drinks — especially made from strawberries — are a popular treat during this celebration.
  • Mexico: Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). This iconic Mexican tradition is a time to remember and celebrate deceased loved ones. Families create colorful altars filled with photographs, candles, and favorite foods of the departed. A special treat during this festival is pan de muerto — a sweet bread enjoyed with hot chocolate. Recently, special non-alcoholic beverages made in honor of the Day of the Dead have served as an additional booze-free alternative.
  • New Zealand: Matariki (Maori New Year). Matariki marks the rise of the Pleiades star cluster and the beginning of the Maori New Year. It's a time of renewal and remembrance. Families come together to share stories, sing, dance, and fly kites. In 2022, a concert organized as part of the Matariki celebration was designated an alcohol-free event
  • Indonesia: Waisak (Vesak Day). Waisak is the most significant Buddhist festival in Indonesia, celebrating Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and death. Taking place at the Borobudur temple, thousands join a procession, light candles, and release lanterns into the night sky, symbolizing enlightenment for the world. The celebration itself is alcohol-free, and hotels, bars, and restaurants actually stop serving booze altogether during this holiday. 

Tips for Navigating Blackout Wednesday Without Booze

Staying on track doesn’t have to mean missing out on the fun! With some intentional planning and a mindful approach, you can have an enjoyable Blackout Wednesday without compromising your goals.

  • Plan ahead. Determine your strategy before the day arrives. If you plan to attend a gathering, consider letting a trusted friend know about your intentions to avoid alcohol. They can be a source of support and understanding.
  • Set clear intentions. Before the festivities begin, outline what you hope to achieve from the night. Is it catching up with old friends, having a fun evening, or perhaps even challenging yourself to stick to a specific drink limit?
  • Stay present. By staying in the moment, you can better gauge your emotions, recognize when you might be drinking as a coping mechanism, and make more informed decisions.
  • Have an alcohol-free drink in hand. If you're at a party, a non-alcoholic beverage in your hand can prevent others from offering you alcoholic drinks. There are many delightful mocktail recipes available that can make you feel like you're still part of the festivities.
  • Focus on connections. Despite its name, Blackout Wednesday is about reuniting with old friends. Prioritize meaningful conversations and catching up. It's the company, not the alcohol, that makes these reunions memorable.
  • Prioritize self-care. Emotions can run high during the holidays. Make time for activities that help you relax and destress. Anything from reading a book, taking a long bath, or practicing meditation could do the trick.
  • Educate yourself. The more you know about alcohol’s effects on the brain and body, the more empowered you'll be to make informed choices. Numerous books, documentaries, and online resources delve into this subject.
  • Remember your “why.” Keep a list of reasons why you chose to cut back or quit alcohol. Reflecting on these reasons can bolster your resolve, especially during challenging times.
  • Seek support. Sharing your intentions with a trusted friend or family member can provide a valuable support system, helping you stay on track.

Why not start a new Blackout Wednesday tradition that doesn't revolve around alcohol? Here are some ideas:

  • DIY craft night. Blackout Wednesday can transform into a night of creativity! From hand-painted Thanksgiving centerpieces to handwritten gratitude cards, there's joy in creating something together.
  • Game marathon. Dust off those board games or video games and host a friendly competition. Whether it's Settlers of Catan or a round of charades, a game marathon can become a beloved annual tradition.
  • Blackout Wednesday vision board. Create a vision board for friends and family members to list their goals for the coming year. In addition to serving as inspiration, it can become a great time capsule to look back on for years to come!
  • Outdoor adventure. Organize a nighttime hike with lanterns, go on a scenic drive, or host a campfire evening with s'mores and storytelling.
  • Memory sharing. Designate some time during Thanksgiving dinner for everyone to share a cherished memory from the past year or a hope for the year to come. This meaningful activity allows for reflection and deepens bonds.
  • Volunteering together. Transform Blackout Wednesday or Thanksgiving Day by volunteering in the community. Whether it’s serving meals at a local shelter or organizing a neighborhood cleanup, giving back can be a fulfilling way to celebrate.
  • Home movie night. Curate a selection of family-friendly movies or documentaries to watch together. Create a cozy movie-watching space with blankets and pillows, and serve a variety of popcorn flavors and alcohol-free mocktails.

A Mindful Celebration

Blackout Wednesday, while reunion-filled and festive, can be a challenging landscape for those of us reducing or eliminating alcohol. But with preparation, mindfulness, and support, it's entirely possible to navigate the evening with joy, connection, and a clear head. Let's redefine Blackout Wednesday to be about memories made, not memories lost to excessive drinking!

Binge Drinking
2023-10-06 9:00
Binge Drinking
Why Do I Binge Drink?
This is some text inside of a div block.

Learn about the various factors that contribute to binge drinking, including our personality, emotions, and certain social settings.

9 min read

Build Healthier Drinking Habits with Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

It’s a Saturday night, and you’re out to dinner with some friends. You’ve promised yourself you’re only going to have one drink with your meal, so you order a glass of wine. Pretty soon, the waitress comes back around and asks if you want another glass. You think to yourself, “I’ll just have one more.” Pretty soon one glass of wine turns into four. 

If you’ve ever wondered why you binge drink, you’re not alone. Even though it’s incredibly dangerous, binge drinking — or consuming large amounts of alcohol within a short period of time — is very common in the United States. In fact, about 60 million people (21.5%) in the U.S. reported binge drinking during the past month. Even moderate or occasional drinkers account for many cases of binge drinking.

So why do so many of us find ourselves binge drinking? 

The Neuroscience of Binge Drinking

Before we explore the potential reasons for binge drinking, let’s first look at alcohol’s effect on the brain. Research indicates that certain brain circuits seem to be activated during a drinking binge. One study in particular discovered that turning off a circuit between two brain regions — the amygdala and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) — might reduce instances of binge drinking. 

Here’s how it works: our amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotional processing, has long been associated with psychological stress and anxiety. The VTA is a pleasure center that responds to the rewarding properties of natural reinforcers, such as food, but also to the addictive properties of drugs and alcohol.

Researchers found that these two areas of our brain are connected by long projection neurons that produce a substance called corticotropin releasing factor (CRF). Alcohol seems to activate the CRF neurons in the extended amygdala, which directly affects the VTA. In other words, whenever we drink alcohol, CRF neurons activated in the amygdala act on the VTA to promote continued and excessive drinking, culminating in a binge. 

Furthermore, a recent study indicates that some people have lower levels of a channel in the VTA that promotes the release of dopamine; because of this difference, they need to drink more alcohol to produce its pleasurable effects. 

The Psychology of Binge Drinking

Since we’re all unique, our specific reasons for binge drinking will always vary widely from person to person. However, certain factors play a role in causing us to binge drink. Here are some: 

  • Personality factors: Research indicates that certain personality traits can make us more prone to engage in binge drinking. For instance, if we’re highly impulsive, we may be more likely to reach for another drink without stopping to think about the consequences. Or if we like novel situations, we might be more willing to engage in risky drinking habits. 

    Furthermore, people with an anxious predisposition and those suffering from anxiety disorders are also more vulnerable to binge drink. They might use alcohol to cope with social anxiety to feel confident talking, flirting, or making jokes with strangers. 
  • Social factors: Research shows that drinking seems more pleasurable when someone consumes alcohol along with other drinkers. This perception of increased pleasure can lead to a pattern of binge drinking if our friends or those around us are also drinking.

    Furthermore, peer pressure can also play a role in drinking to excess. Even older adults can find it hard to turn down “one more drink” when they’re out having fun with friends. 
  • Emotional factors: Many people use binge drinking to self-medicate their emotional and mental stress, depression, anxiety, boredom, or loneliness. We might turn to alcohol as a way to relax after a difficult day at work or to cope with uncomfortable feelings or difficult life events. Sadly, binge drinking can exacerbate mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

    Furthermore, our attitude toward drinking can have a major effect on our alcohol consumption. For instance, research indicates that many drinkers go on binges because they believe that rapid intoxication will provide them with benefits such as lowered personal inhibitions, easier social interactions, and a sense of social bonding with peers.

The Connection Between Binge Drinking and Alcohol Misuse

Even if we don’t regularly binge drink, the occasional binging is harmful, putting us at greater risk for alcohol poisoning, accidents and injuries, and alcohol-induced blackouts.

While only 10% of people who binge drink struggle with alcohol dependence, the more frequently we binge drink, the more at risk we are of developing an alcohol misuse problem. This can be a gradual process that we might not even notice right away. 

But, as we build a tolerance to alcohol, we may find ourselves needing to drink more and more to feel the same effects. We may begin to binge drink more often, and the days we abstain from alcohol become few and far between. Here are some signs we might have a binge drinking problem:

  • We drink more than we intend
  • We have a hard time cutting ourselves off once we start drinking
  • We frequently experience blackouts
  • We feel guilty or ashamed about how much we drink
  • Our mental health problems worsen after drinking
  • We engage in reckless behavior

Over time, binge drinking has long-term effects on our health, increasing our risk for liver disease, brain damage, cardiovascular disease and cancer. 

The Bottom Line

People binge drink for a variety of reasons, from trying to calm their nerves to getting caught up in a social situation with an endless flow of drinks. Still, some of us might be more prone to binge drinking than others. The good news is that we can learn how to stop binge drinking and develop healthier drinking habits. This usually starts by identifying conscious and subconscious triggers that are causing us to drink too much. 

Reframe can help. We’ve helped millions of people cut back on their alcohol consumption and become healthier and happier in the process. 

It’s a Saturday night, and you’re out to dinner with some friends. You’ve promised yourself you’re only going to have one drink with your meal, so you order a glass of wine. Pretty soon, the waitress comes back around and asks if you want another glass. You think to yourself, “I’ll just have one more.” Pretty soon one glass of wine turns into four. 

If you’ve ever wondered why you binge drink, you’re not alone. Even though it’s incredibly dangerous, binge drinking — or consuming large amounts of alcohol within a short period of time — is very common in the United States. In fact, about 60 million people (21.5%) in the U.S. reported binge drinking during the past month. Even moderate or occasional drinkers account for many cases of binge drinking.

So why do so many of us find ourselves binge drinking? 

The Neuroscience of Binge Drinking

Before we explore the potential reasons for binge drinking, let’s first look at alcohol’s effect on the brain. Research indicates that certain brain circuits seem to be activated during a drinking binge. One study in particular discovered that turning off a circuit between two brain regions — the amygdala and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) — might reduce instances of binge drinking. 

Here’s how it works: our amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotional processing, has long been associated with psychological stress and anxiety. The VTA is a pleasure center that responds to the rewarding properties of natural reinforcers, such as food, but also to the addictive properties of drugs and alcohol.

Researchers found that these two areas of our brain are connected by long projection neurons that produce a substance called corticotropin releasing factor (CRF). Alcohol seems to activate the CRF neurons in the extended amygdala, which directly affects the VTA. In other words, whenever we drink alcohol, CRF neurons activated in the amygdala act on the VTA to promote continued and excessive drinking, culminating in a binge. 

Furthermore, a recent study indicates that some people have lower levels of a channel in the VTA that promotes the release of dopamine; because of this difference, they need to drink more alcohol to produce its pleasurable effects. 

The Psychology of Binge Drinking

Since we’re all unique, our specific reasons for binge drinking will always vary widely from person to person. However, certain factors play a role in causing us to binge drink. Here are some: 

  • Personality factors: Research indicates that certain personality traits can make us more prone to engage in binge drinking. For instance, if we’re highly impulsive, we may be more likely to reach for another drink without stopping to think about the consequences. Or if we like novel situations, we might be more willing to engage in risky drinking habits. 

    Furthermore, people with an anxious predisposition and those suffering from anxiety disorders are also more vulnerable to binge drink. They might use alcohol to cope with social anxiety to feel confident talking, flirting, or making jokes with strangers. 
  • Social factors: Research shows that drinking seems more pleasurable when someone consumes alcohol along with other drinkers. This perception of increased pleasure can lead to a pattern of binge drinking if our friends or those around us are also drinking.

    Furthermore, peer pressure can also play a role in drinking to excess. Even older adults can find it hard to turn down “one more drink” when they’re out having fun with friends. 
  • Emotional factors: Many people use binge drinking to self-medicate their emotional and mental stress, depression, anxiety, boredom, or loneliness. We might turn to alcohol as a way to relax after a difficult day at work or to cope with uncomfortable feelings or difficult life events. Sadly, binge drinking can exacerbate mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

    Furthermore, our attitude toward drinking can have a major effect on our alcohol consumption. For instance, research indicates that many drinkers go on binges because they believe that rapid intoxication will provide them with benefits such as lowered personal inhibitions, easier social interactions, and a sense of social bonding with peers.

The Connection Between Binge Drinking and Alcohol Misuse

Even if we don’t regularly binge drink, the occasional binging is harmful, putting us at greater risk for alcohol poisoning, accidents and injuries, and alcohol-induced blackouts.

While only 10% of people who binge drink struggle with alcohol dependence, the more frequently we binge drink, the more at risk we are of developing an alcohol misuse problem. This can be a gradual process that we might not even notice right away. 

But, as we build a tolerance to alcohol, we may find ourselves needing to drink more and more to feel the same effects. We may begin to binge drink more often, and the days we abstain from alcohol become few and far between. Here are some signs we might have a binge drinking problem:

  • We drink more than we intend
  • We have a hard time cutting ourselves off once we start drinking
  • We frequently experience blackouts
  • We feel guilty or ashamed about how much we drink
  • Our mental health problems worsen after drinking
  • We engage in reckless behavior

Over time, binge drinking has long-term effects on our health, increasing our risk for liver disease, brain damage, cardiovascular disease and cancer. 

The Bottom Line

People binge drink for a variety of reasons, from trying to calm their nerves to getting caught up in a social situation with an endless flow of drinks. Still, some of us might be more prone to binge drinking than others. The good news is that we can learn how to stop binge drinking and develop healthier drinking habits. This usually starts by identifying conscious and subconscious triggers that are causing us to drink too much. 

Reframe can help. We’ve helped millions of people cut back on their alcohol consumption and become healthier and happier in the process. 

Binge Drinking
2023-08-09 9:45
Binge Drinking
Why Is Binge Drinking So Common in College? And What Are the Risks?
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Binge drinking in college: it's more common than you might think, but do you know the reasons and the risks? Dive into our latest blog to uncover the social pressures behind this trend and the real-life impacts that might make you think twice about that next party drink.

11 min read

Relax and Start Your Healing Journey With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Read Full Article  →

For thousands of college students, college means bunk beds in tiny dorm rooms, study groups, cafeteria food, tailgate parties, finals week stress, and … binge drinking. It’s so common on college campuses that it might seem like just another rite of passage. But what's really going on here? Why is binge drinking so widespread in college, and what are the risks?

Binge Drinking Facts

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men within about 2 hours.

According to the 2020 NIAAA report, almost 55% of college students aged 18 to 22 drank alcohol in the past month, and nearly 37% reported binge drinking in that time period.

The Social Connection

Going to college often means leaving home for the first time, meeting new people, and forging new friendships. Social events, parties, and gatherings become the playground for building these connections, and sadly, alcohol often plays a major role.

It's an exciting time! We make friends, share stories, and create memories that last a lifetime. These interactions aren't just about having a great time — they're also about finding our identity and building our social circle.

College events, parties, and gatherings serve as platforms for these connections. It’s where we meet fellow students, make friends, share interests, and create shared experiences. And more often than not, alcohol has a role to play.

Alcohol is often seen as a social lubricant, easing conversations and alleviating awkwardness or nervousness. However, this perspective creates a societal norm in which drinking becomes associated with fun, relaxation, and social acceptance. It starts with a drink at a party, a casual way to break the ice. However, before we know it, booze is seen as an integral part of social interactions.

Moreover, many college activities and traditions revolve around alcohol. From fraternity parties to tailgating events, alcohol has been integrated into the fabric of college social life. This well established culture often normalizes binge drinking behavior, making it seem like an essential part of the college experience.

Peer Pressure

Remember when you were a kid and you did something you knew you shouldn’t, just because your friends were doing it? That's peer pressure! While we might hope to leave this behind as we grow older, unfortunately, it doesn't quite work that way. Peer pressure is alive and well in college, and it often plays a significant role in the prevalence of binge drinking.

In the grand adventure that is college life, nobody wants to feel left out. Whether it's being part of the group, fitting in, or simply not wanting to seem "different," the pressure to conform can be incredibly powerful. Alcohol often becomes the common denominator at social gatherings, and choosing not to partake might make a student feel excluded or “uncool.” The fear of missing out can drive a student to drink excessively, even if they don't really want to.

Stress Relief

Exams, papers, projects — oh my! College can be stressful, and some students might turn to alcohol as a way to unwind and forget about their troubles temporarily.

Alcohol's ability to trigger the release of dopamine in the brain creates a temporary feeling of relaxation and euphoria, which can seem quite appealing when you're trying to escape stress. However, this effect is fleeting, and in reality, alcohol is a depressant that can exacerbate stress and anxiety over time.

Additionally, the practice of using alcohol to cope with stress sets a risky precedent. It promotes an unhealthy coping mechanism, teaching the brain to associate stress relief with drinking. This habit can stick around long after college, potentially leading to long-term issues with alcohol.

What Are the Risks?

  • Physical health problems. Excessive drinking can lead to liver disease, heart problems, and even alcohol poisoning, which is a medical emergency and is experienced by thousands of college students every year.
  • Mental health issues. Binge drinking can contribute to anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges, affecting academic performance and overall well-being.
  • Risk of injuries. According to the report by Stanford Medicine, an average of 1,825 college students die each year from alcohol-related injuries, which include car crashes, falls, burns, drownings, and hypothermia.
  • Sexual assault. The same report states that 696,000 college students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking every year. Moreover, an average of 97,000 college students per year report incidents of date rape or sexual assault related to alcohol.
  • Academic impact. Roughly one in four college students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall. Poor academic performance comes with a hefty price and might jeopardize scholarships or future career opportunities.
  • Addiction. Consistent binge drinking can pave the way for alcohol dependence and addiction, a serious and chronic disorder that may require professional intervention. As much as 20% of the college student population in the U.S. meets the criteria for an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) — a shockingly high percentage!
  • Legal consequences. Underage drinking and public intoxication can lead to legal troubles, jeopardizing future job opportunities or even leading to jail time. And that’s no way to spend those precious young adult years!

What You Can Do

If you're someone looking to quit or cut back on alcohol, here are some specific action steps to help you stay on track:

  • Choose your journey. While it's natural to want to fit in and be part of the crowd, it's essential to understand that real friends will respect your decisions, including the decision not to drink. The college journey is about discovering your own identity and making choices that align with your values and well-being. And guess what? It's perfectly okay if your choices don't align with the crowd's!
  • Find alternative activities. Engage in hobbies or activities that don't involve alcohol, such as joining a sports team or an art club. While alcohol may appear to make socializing easier, it's important to remember that genuine connections don’t require booze,and they’re actually better off without it! Real friendships are built on shared interests, values, and experiences — not just shared drinks.
  • Educate yourself and set clear goals. Understanding the risks associated with binge drinking can strengthen your resolve. Make your intentions clear by setting achievable goals related to reducing or quitting alcohol.
  • Create a support network. Reach out to friends or family members who can support your decision to reduce or eliminate alcohol.
  • Seek professional help if needed. There’s no shame in asking for help! Counseling and therapy can provide individualized strategies to help you with your journey.

Wrapping Up

College is a time of exploration, growth, and learning, but it doesn’t have to include binge drinking. By understanding the factors that make binge drinking so common, and recognizing the potential risks, you can make informed decisions that support your health and your future. Now, who's ready for some pizza and popcorn during study breaks instead of booze? Remember, life's great moments don't have to come from a bottle!

For thousands of college students, college means bunk beds in tiny dorm rooms, study groups, cafeteria food, tailgate parties, finals week stress, and … binge drinking. It’s so common on college campuses that it might seem like just another rite of passage. But what's really going on here? Why is binge drinking so widespread in college, and what are the risks?

Binge Drinking Facts

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men within about 2 hours.

According to the 2020 NIAAA report, almost 55% of college students aged 18 to 22 drank alcohol in the past month, and nearly 37% reported binge drinking in that time period.

The Social Connection

Going to college often means leaving home for the first time, meeting new people, and forging new friendships. Social events, parties, and gatherings become the playground for building these connections, and sadly, alcohol often plays a major role.

It's an exciting time! We make friends, share stories, and create memories that last a lifetime. These interactions aren't just about having a great time — they're also about finding our identity and building our social circle.

College events, parties, and gatherings serve as platforms for these connections. It’s where we meet fellow students, make friends, share interests, and create shared experiences. And more often than not, alcohol has a role to play.

Alcohol is often seen as a social lubricant, easing conversations and alleviating awkwardness or nervousness. However, this perspective creates a societal norm in which drinking becomes associated with fun, relaxation, and social acceptance. It starts with a drink at a party, a casual way to break the ice. However, before we know it, booze is seen as an integral part of social interactions.

Moreover, many college activities and traditions revolve around alcohol. From fraternity parties to tailgating events, alcohol has been integrated into the fabric of college social life. This well established culture often normalizes binge drinking behavior, making it seem like an essential part of the college experience.

Peer Pressure

Remember when you were a kid and you did something you knew you shouldn’t, just because your friends were doing it? That's peer pressure! While we might hope to leave this behind as we grow older, unfortunately, it doesn't quite work that way. Peer pressure is alive and well in college, and it often plays a significant role in the prevalence of binge drinking.

In the grand adventure that is college life, nobody wants to feel left out. Whether it's being part of the group, fitting in, or simply not wanting to seem "different," the pressure to conform can be incredibly powerful. Alcohol often becomes the common denominator at social gatherings, and choosing not to partake might make a student feel excluded or “uncool.” The fear of missing out can drive a student to drink excessively, even if they don't really want to.

Stress Relief

Exams, papers, projects — oh my! College can be stressful, and some students might turn to alcohol as a way to unwind and forget about their troubles temporarily.

Alcohol's ability to trigger the release of dopamine in the brain creates a temporary feeling of relaxation and euphoria, which can seem quite appealing when you're trying to escape stress. However, this effect is fleeting, and in reality, alcohol is a depressant that can exacerbate stress and anxiety over time.

Additionally, the practice of using alcohol to cope with stress sets a risky precedent. It promotes an unhealthy coping mechanism, teaching the brain to associate stress relief with drinking. This habit can stick around long after college, potentially leading to long-term issues with alcohol.

What Are the Risks?

  • Physical health problems. Excessive drinking can lead to liver disease, heart problems, and even alcohol poisoning, which is a medical emergency and is experienced by thousands of college students every year.
  • Mental health issues. Binge drinking can contribute to anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges, affecting academic performance and overall well-being.
  • Risk of injuries. According to the report by Stanford Medicine, an average of 1,825 college students die each year from alcohol-related injuries, which include car crashes, falls, burns, drownings, and hypothermia.
  • Sexual assault. The same report states that 696,000 college students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking every year. Moreover, an average of 97,000 college students per year report incidents of date rape or sexual assault related to alcohol.
  • Academic impact. Roughly one in four college students report academic consequences from drinking, including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall. Poor academic performance comes with a hefty price and might jeopardize scholarships or future career opportunities.
  • Addiction. Consistent binge drinking can pave the way for alcohol dependence and addiction, a serious and chronic disorder that may require professional intervention. As much as 20% of the college student population in the U.S. meets the criteria for an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) — a shockingly high percentage!
  • Legal consequences. Underage drinking and public intoxication can lead to legal troubles, jeopardizing future job opportunities or even leading to jail time. And that’s no way to spend those precious young adult years!

What You Can Do

If you're someone looking to quit or cut back on alcohol, here are some specific action steps to help you stay on track:

  • Choose your journey. While it's natural to want to fit in and be part of the crowd, it's essential to understand that real friends will respect your decisions, including the decision not to drink. The college journey is about discovering your own identity and making choices that align with your values and well-being. And guess what? It's perfectly okay if your choices don't align with the crowd's!
  • Find alternative activities. Engage in hobbies or activities that don't involve alcohol, such as joining a sports team or an art club. While alcohol may appear to make socializing easier, it's important to remember that genuine connections don’t require booze,and they’re actually better off without it! Real friendships are built on shared interests, values, and experiences — not just shared drinks.
  • Educate yourself and set clear goals. Understanding the risks associated with binge drinking can strengthen your resolve. Make your intentions clear by setting achievable goals related to reducing or quitting alcohol.
  • Create a support network. Reach out to friends or family members who can support your decision to reduce or eliminate alcohol.
  • Seek professional help if needed. There’s no shame in asking for help! Counseling and therapy can provide individualized strategies to help you with your journey.

Wrapping Up

College is a time of exploration, growth, and learning, but it doesn’t have to include binge drinking. By understanding the factors that make binge drinking so common, and recognizing the potential risks, you can make informed decisions that support your health and your future. Now, who's ready for some pizza and popcorn during study breaks instead of booze? Remember, life's great moments don't have to come from a bottle!

Binge Drinking
2023-07-31 9:00
Binge Drinking
Alcohol Misuse vs. Dependence: What's the Difference?
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They might be similar, but alcohol misuse and alcohol dependence aren’t the same thing. Gain insight into the differences between these two conditions.

9 min read

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Read Full Article  →

When it comes to having a problem with alcohol, there are all sorts of terms out there — from alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence to alcohol addiction and the more colloquial term, “alcoholism.” While similar, these terms don’t all mean the same thing. For instance, alcohol misuse and alcohol dependence are two different conditions. How so? Let’s dive in.

Understanding Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol dependence is a chronic medical condition that causes us to experience symptoms of withdrawal when we stop consuming alcohol. In other words, our body develops a physical dependence on alcohol, and we have to keep consuming alcohol to avoid experiencing withdrawal.

We might have alcohol dependence if we exhibit some or all of the following characteristics:

  • Increased tolerance. We need to drink increasing amounts over time to achieve the desired effects of alcohol. For instance, we used to drink two glasses of wine each night, but now it takes four to attain that “feel good” feeling.
  • Withdrawal symptoms. We experience physical symptoms (such as insomnia, tremors, shaking, or mood swings) after going for a short period without drinking.
  • Drinking to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms. We have to drink to stop the shakes or to “cure” hangovers.
  • Awareness of the need to drink. We’re aware of how strongly we’re craving alcohol, even if we don’t admit it to others.
  • Drinking larger amounts. We consume larger amounts of alcohol over a longer period than intended and are unsuccessful at any attempts to cut back.

Alcohol dependence is similar to drug addictions, such as cocaine or heroin, as they all can cause incredibly strong withdrawal symptoms. In fact, delirium tremens, otherwise known as DTs, is a severe, life-threatening form of alcohol withdrawal characterized by agitation, fear, shaking, hallucinations, seizures, and severe confusion. On rare occasions, it can even lead to death.

Understanding Alcohol Misuse

Alcohol misuse, on the other hand, refers to excessive alcohol consumption, and it’s characterized by continuing to drink even though it creates problems in our social, interpersonal, health, and work life.

While someone who misuses alcohol may be dependent on alcohol, they may also be able to stop drinking without experiencing withdrawal. Some experts describe alcohol dependence as the inability to quit, and alcohol misuse as drinking too much, too often.

One study noted that 90% of people who misuse alcohol are not alcohol dependent. This includes people who engage in excessive drinking and binge drinking. However, the study also noted that people who binge drink more often were more likely to be alcohol dependent.

We might misuse alcohol if we exhibit some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Drinking more alcohol over a longer period of time than intended
  • Wanting to cut back on drinking but being unable to do so
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining alcohol, consuming it, and then recovering
  • Inability to function normally in important areas of our life due to alcohol
  • Strong cravings for alcohol
  • Giving up important activities because of alcohol use
  • Using alcohol in situations that may be dangerous or risky
  • Continuing alcohol consumption despite negative consequences
  • Increased tolerance, (i.e., needing to drink more to experience the same effects)
  • Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when alcohol use is reduced or stopped

It’s worth noting that alcohol misuse can eventually lead to alcohol dependency; and, as we’ve learned, once we become dependent, it’s much more difficult to quit drinking.

However, even though alcohol dependence is more severe, alcohol misuse can still be incredibly harmful and dangerous. For instance, many people who misuse alcohol binge drink regularly, which is defined as having five or more drinks in two hours for men, and four or more drinks in two hours for women. Binge drinking can be extremely dangerous, increasing our chance of alcohol poisoning, accidents, and injuries.

Treatment for Alcohol Misuse vs. Alcohol Dependence

People with alcohol dependence typically require comprehensive treatment by a medical professional. Doctors might prescribe medications to help manage withdrawal symptoms and support us in our effort to stop drinking. Benzodiazepines in particular can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms, and naltrexone can help us manage alcohol cravings. Healthcare providers might also recommend recovery centers to help prevent relapse.

In severe instances, alcohol use might also require professional medical help. In other cases, people can learn to alter their drinking patterns through a variety of tools and resources. In fact, meditation has proven to be particularly effective in helping people curb cravings and reduce their alcohol intake.

The Bottom Line

The main difference between alcohol misuse and alcohol dependence is that alcohol misuse doesn’t always include a physical dependence on alcohol. With alcohol dependence, we have a physical compulsion to drink and will experience withdrawal symptoms if we stop consuming alcohol. With alcohol misuse, we don’t necessarily have a physical dependence on alcohol, but engage in excessive drinking even if it’s causing us problems. If we don’t feel the need to drink, but turn to alcohol to escape difficult emotions, that is a sign of alcohol misuse.

If you suspect you’re misusing alcohol or have developed alcohol dependence, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider, who can help determine the best treatment option for you. You can also try Reframe, a research-backed app that has helped millions of people cut back on their alcohol consumption.

When it comes to having a problem with alcohol, there are all sorts of terms out there — from alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence to alcohol addiction and the more colloquial term, “alcoholism.” While similar, these terms don’t all mean the same thing. For instance, alcohol misuse and alcohol dependence are two different conditions. How so? Let’s dive in.

Understanding Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol dependence is a chronic medical condition that causes us to experience symptoms of withdrawal when we stop consuming alcohol. In other words, our body develops a physical dependence on alcohol, and we have to keep consuming alcohol to avoid experiencing withdrawal.

We might have alcohol dependence if we exhibit some or all of the following characteristics:

  • Increased tolerance. We need to drink increasing amounts over time to achieve the desired effects of alcohol. For instance, we used to drink two glasses of wine each night, but now it takes four to attain that “feel good” feeling.
  • Withdrawal symptoms. We experience physical symptoms (such as insomnia, tremors, shaking, or mood swings) after going for a short period without drinking.
  • Drinking to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms. We have to drink to stop the shakes or to “cure” hangovers.
  • Awareness of the need to drink. We’re aware of how strongly we’re craving alcohol, even if we don’t admit it to others.
  • Drinking larger amounts. We consume larger amounts of alcohol over a longer period than intended and are unsuccessful at any attempts to cut back.

Alcohol dependence is similar to drug addictions, such as cocaine or heroin, as they all can cause incredibly strong withdrawal symptoms. In fact, delirium tremens, otherwise known as DTs, is a severe, life-threatening form of alcohol withdrawal characterized by agitation, fear, shaking, hallucinations, seizures, and severe confusion. On rare occasions, it can even lead to death.

Understanding Alcohol Misuse

Alcohol misuse, on the other hand, refers to excessive alcohol consumption, and it’s characterized by continuing to drink even though it creates problems in our social, interpersonal, health, and work life.

While someone who misuses alcohol may be dependent on alcohol, they may also be able to stop drinking without experiencing withdrawal. Some experts describe alcohol dependence as the inability to quit, and alcohol misuse as drinking too much, too often.

One study noted that 90% of people who misuse alcohol are not alcohol dependent. This includes people who engage in excessive drinking and binge drinking. However, the study also noted that people who binge drink more often were more likely to be alcohol dependent.

We might misuse alcohol if we exhibit some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Drinking more alcohol over a longer period of time than intended
  • Wanting to cut back on drinking but being unable to do so
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining alcohol, consuming it, and then recovering
  • Inability to function normally in important areas of our life due to alcohol
  • Strong cravings for alcohol
  • Giving up important activities because of alcohol use
  • Using alcohol in situations that may be dangerous or risky
  • Continuing alcohol consumption despite negative consequences
  • Increased tolerance, (i.e., needing to drink more to experience the same effects)
  • Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when alcohol use is reduced or stopped

It’s worth noting that alcohol misuse can eventually lead to alcohol dependency; and, as we’ve learned, once we become dependent, it’s much more difficult to quit drinking.

However, even though alcohol dependence is more severe, alcohol misuse can still be incredibly harmful and dangerous. For instance, many people who misuse alcohol binge drink regularly, which is defined as having five or more drinks in two hours for men, and four or more drinks in two hours for women. Binge drinking can be extremely dangerous, increasing our chance of alcohol poisoning, accidents, and injuries.

Treatment for Alcohol Misuse vs. Alcohol Dependence

People with alcohol dependence typically require comprehensive treatment by a medical professional. Doctors might prescribe medications to help manage withdrawal symptoms and support us in our effort to stop drinking. Benzodiazepines in particular can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms, and naltrexone can help us manage alcohol cravings. Healthcare providers might also recommend recovery centers to help prevent relapse.

In severe instances, alcohol use might also require professional medical help. In other cases, people can learn to alter their drinking patterns through a variety of tools and resources. In fact, meditation has proven to be particularly effective in helping people curb cravings and reduce their alcohol intake.

The Bottom Line

The main difference between alcohol misuse and alcohol dependence is that alcohol misuse doesn’t always include a physical dependence on alcohol. With alcohol dependence, we have a physical compulsion to drink and will experience withdrawal symptoms if we stop consuming alcohol. With alcohol misuse, we don’t necessarily have a physical dependence on alcohol, but engage in excessive drinking even if it’s causing us problems. If we don’t feel the need to drink, but turn to alcohol to escape difficult emotions, that is a sign of alcohol misuse.

If you suspect you’re misusing alcohol or have developed alcohol dependence, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider, who can help determine the best treatment option for you. You can also try Reframe, a research-backed app that has helped millions of people cut back on their alcohol consumption.

Binge Drinking