Is binge drinking an addiction? Binge drinking is consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. This may not necessarily translate to an alcohol addiction, but it can lead there.
The brain gets used to the amount of dopamine released when alcohol is consumed. When the brain reaches a threshold of tolerance for the chemically-induced release of dopamine, it can then create the need for heightened levels of dopamine.
Alcohol is a depressant, but we use it to get the “good feeling” to counteract depression. Using the thing that causes the depressive mood to get out of the depressive mood creates a vicious cycle. This still does not necessarily mean that a binge drinker has an addiction. The binge drinker may have the ability to control the use of alcohol in between their binge episodes. They may even be able to stop completely if there is a powerful enough negative consequence to their behavior.
So, is binge drinking an addiction? The problem occurs when binge drinking leads to abuse of alcohol. As one former binge drinker recalls,
For years, I struggled with binge drinking. It did not seem like a struggle at the time. I, as most binge drinkers, could stop for a period and did not need alcohol. Even though I had negative consequences, some severe, it still seemed manageable. This is the trick of the mind. I found myself over a period of time having shorter time periods between binge episodes. These usually occurred because something in life had thrown me a curveball I was unsure how to handle.
Here lies the true problem.
When alcohol becomes the automatic response to life, the cycle of destruction has begun.
So, is binge drinking an addiction? There is a fine line between binge drinking episodes and addiction; one leads to the other. The good news is that alcoholism is a treatable disease. If you or someone you know is suffering from binge drinking episodes, there is help. You are not alone. You can have freedom from that bondage.
Fact Sheet: Binge Drinking. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March, 2017.