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Ask the Doc: Yes, I Binge Drink. But am I an Alcoholic?

Image of Ian Bell, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron True North social worker, tries on vision impairment goggles at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Dec. 20, 2021. The vision impairment goggles represented a range of different blood alcohol concentrations, from less than 0.06 BAC, which simulates how reaction time and abilities are affected after just one drink, to 0.25, a very high level of impairment caused by binge drinking. A soldier tries on vision impairment goggles that represent a range of different blood alcohol concentrations, from less than 0.06 BAC, which simulates how reaction time and abilities are affected after just one drink, to 0.25, a very high level of impairment caused by binge drinking.

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Total Force Fitness | Ask The Doc

Dear Doc:

I don't drink when on duty, but I kick back on the weekends and down a six-pack or two at a time. I know this is called binge drinking, but I don't think I'm an alcoholic. Should I be worried?

—Gunnery Sgt. Bud Brewski

Illustration of a male face with the words 'Ask the Doc'Dear Gunny: Many service members face the same issues with overdrinking when out of uniform. Binge drinking is something you need to be careful about. I found just the experts to talk about this. I contacted psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Wolf at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence for Traumatic Brain Injury and Brain Health, Bethesda, Maryland, and Daniel Evatt, a research psychologist at the Psychological Health Center of Excellence, Silver Spring, Maryland.

Here's what Wolf had to say.


Binge drinking is drinking to the point of becoming intoxicated. While it's often reported as five drinks per occasion for a man or four for a woman, that's not actually the definition.

A binge is drinking alcohol to the point where your blood alcohol level is greater than 0.08 percent. For an average-sized man, that's more than five drinks in two hours, or four drinks for a woman during the same time period.

This is an important distinction, because 0.08% is the level at which you cannot legally drive a car in most states.

After a binge, you are no longer safe to drive a vehicle, your ability to make important decisions is impaired, and you are at increased risk for accidents or injury.

Regular binge drinking carries a number of health consequences. Physically, regular use of alcohol can result in damage to the liver. In addition, alcohol contains a large number of calories and is associated with weight gain and elevated blood pressure.

Mentally, alcohol is a depressant, and binge drinking is associated with higher rates of depression and suicide.

Alcohol also impacts sleep and cognitive recovery. On the day after a binge, even if you are not 'hung over,' you will be cognitively slower and have diminished memory.

Drinking to this point regularly does not mean that you are an alcoholic. But it is worrisome, particularly if it concerns you or those around you.

The best step would be to discuss your drinking with your primary health care professional or take the online Drinking Habits Quiz.

Evatt had this advice (and some warnings for you).


There are many reasons to be concerned about binge drinking and heavy alcohol consumption in general. Alcohol consumption is the leading risk factor for death and disability among people ages 15 to 49 and is strongly associated with a wide variety of serious health outcomes, including liver problems and several types of cancer.

Although binge drinking does not necessarily mean that you have a more serious alcohol use disorder (commonly called alcoholism), binge drinking could be a sign that you are developing symptoms of a more serious alcohol use disorder.

In addition to the destructive effects on a person's social life and health, binge drinking costs society valuable resources and money.

Several sources estimate the monetary costs of excessive alcohol consumption to be well over $100 billion annually in the United States, with most of those costs being attributable to binge drinking. These costs include the toll of early mortality, health care, crime, and accidents.

The effects of binge drinking on judgment, impairment, and health are worthy of taking seriously in all situations irrespective of demographic or socioeconomic differences. Binge drinking generally causes the same types of harmful life and health effects for both men and women.

Many people find that they have more energy and that their functioning at work and in social interactions is easier after they quit binge drinking.

We are at our best with friends and family when we are thinking clearly and are well rested and healthy. Binge drinking can impair our ability to respond to life's challenges that arise with friends and family and can even make problems worse.


Gunny, hopefully you can take Wolf and Evatt's advice to heart and that their information sends you on a path toward a healthier lifestyle. Remember, moderation is the key to all our behaviors and actions.

Good luck my friend and as always…take care out there!

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