Is binge drinking all that bad?

Binge drinking involves drinking alcoholic drinks in quick succession and/or drinking to get drunk. Let’s delve deeper and see if it’s really all that bad. 

Official NHS guidelines suggest men and women shouldn’t drink more than 14 units per week on a regular basis. We should also look to spread these units over 3 or more days and aim for several alcohol-free days too. 

What’s considered binge drinking? The NHS defines it as ‘drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk. In terms of units, binge drinking is drinking more than: 

  • 8 units of alcohol in a single session for men 
  • 6 units of alcohol in a single session for women 

 Doing this can cause our bodies undue stress: 

  • After drinking 5-7 units, our risk of harm (including accidents and injuries) increases between 2-5 times.  
  • When we’re drunk, we’re more likely to take risks, make poor decisions and lose our self-control. 
  • Our bodies can only process 1 unit of alcohol per hour. This is why we cope better drinking over a longer period. 

Factors that influence binge drinking 

  • Environmental. Where you are, for example a bar after work, a nightclub, the local pub, at home etc. 
  • Psychological. Perhaps you suffer from low-self esteem or self-confidence and fire yourself up with alcohol. Or maybe you’re stressed or have depression or anxiety and use alcohol as a crutch to cope. 
  • Social. Are you with colleagues full of bluster and bravado or friends who you want to let your hair down with? Is it payday? Who you’re with can make a huge difference to drinking habits. 

Here’s some signs that you might have a problem with binge drinking: 

  • You drink excessive amounts of alcohol on the weekends or at social events 
  • You drink so much alcohol that it causes you to blackout 
  • You consume 4 or 5 drinks in less than 2 hours 
  • You often drink more than you’ve planned 
  • You engage in behaviours you later regret 
  • You experience worry about your behaviour the next day — known as ‘hangxiety’ 

Alongside reduced productivity at work and impaired interpersonal relationships, binge drinking has long and short-term effects on our health and wellbeing, including: 

  • Alcohol poisoning 
  • Accidents 
  • Heart disease/stroke 
  • Liver disease  
  • Increased risk of some cancers 
  • Memory impairment  
  • Mental health problems  

If you’d like to change your habits surrounding drinking, try these tactics: 

  • Make a plan. Before an event, decide your limit, and stick to it. Rope in a friend to help you stay on track. 
  • Ensure you’ve eaten a meal before drinking. This will help your BAC. 
  • Intersperse alcoholic drinks with low-cal soft drinks or water. This will keep you hydrated and cut down on the volume of alcohol you drink. 
  • Drink spirits ‘long’ with a larger ratio of mixer to spirit.  
  • Make sure you get on your feet regularly. It can be very easy to get cosy in a corner at the pub or on the sofa at home and not realise how inebriated you’re becoming.  


If you’re a Nottingham City resident looking to make lasting changes to your health behaviours, our free Health Coaching programme is here for you. Join us to receive dedicated support and expert guidance tailored to your personal goals.