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The fine line between social and binge drinking

By May 29, 2018 No Comments

It all starts with just one sip and one more drink. That’s what social and binge drinkers have in common – just one more. Yet it is important to note that social drinkers and binge drinkers are not the same. There are fundamental differences that can in some cases even spell out the difference between life and death.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states that social drinkers are people who exhibit “low-risk” drinking patterns. “Low-risk” drinking is when a female would not consume over 7 drinks per week and no more than 3 drinks per sitting. For males, it pertains to no more than 14 drinks per week and no more than 4 drinks per day.

While the researchers argue about the exact numbers, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism if you consume 4 drinks (women) and 5 drinks (men) within 2 hours, then you are binge drinking.

What is social drinking?

“Shall we go out for drinks on Friday night?” – Students know this line all too well and the influx of young people in malls, clubs, restaurants and bars on weekends can bear witness to this. Social drinkers like to go out with friends or for dinner with a loved one and indulge in some alcohol. The aim is to enjoy the meal and company rather than explicitly getting drunk.

It is also important to note that a social drinker is in control of his or her drinking. They have fun and enjoy their alcoholic drinks, but do not let the alcohol take over. They are in full control of the amount of alcohol they want to drink and don’t hide behind the alcohol as a form of escaping reality.

  • Social drinkers may enjoy drinking in the company of others and show “low-drinking” patterns. They can set reasonable drinking limits and adhere to them.
  • Social drinkers exhibit sober behaviour. They are not obsessed about alcohol and fixated on when they can have their next drink.
  • Social drinkers have a sound mind and don’t engage in risky sexual behaviour when drunk.

What is binge drinking?

Binge drinking is characterised by occasional heavy drinking. It is drinking a lot of alcoholic beers, sodas, cocktails (or whatever something-something you prefer) over a short period of time, with the intention of getting drunk. The point is not just to get tipsy, but to lose control.

Students often do this to fit in, be accepted or be “cool”. It is common for students’ social events such as RAG or Spring Bashes to be filled with high alcohol consumption, with some even drinking before they get to the parties. This is usually just brushed aside to just being the folly of youth.

However, there are real dangers that are associated with binge drinking. To put it out there, yes you could die in some extreme cases. Other side effects can be not being able to breathe, the heart stopping to pump, vomiting and hangovers.

Help me, I am slipping away!

Memory can be affected by excessive alcohol. This is particularly dangerous when someone is not in their right mind and others take advantage of them. The poor judgement associated with this can contribute to rape, unprotected sex, casual sex and other social ills plaguing our nation. Over a long period of time, excessive binge drinking can also contribute to extreme mental health issues.

If you keep setting drinking limits, but find it hard to stick to them, then that is a call for help. Perhaps you are constantly thinking about when you are going to get your next drink or struggling to get by with your personal and professional life because of alcohol. Don’t despair. Help is at hand.

Visit Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) South Africa’s website for more information. Alternatively, you can reach them by calling 0861 HELP AA (435-722) from within South Africa. They are also available via fax (088011) 867-5950 and email (

Stop making excuses for your drinking habits. Take ownership of your life today. Get help now!

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