What is Considered Heavy Drinking?


We have all been at the party where someone has drunk one too many glasses of alcohol and is now causing a scene. Unfortunately, heavy or excessive drinking has many more harmful consequences than simply ruining an evening. In order to discuss just how detrimental heavy drinking can be to your health and life, we must first talk about what heavy drinking actually is. 

What is Heavy Drinking?

It can be challenging to create a single definition of heavy drinking. Different organizations have provided various recommendations of what heavy drinking is considered to be. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) describes binge drinking as a consistent pattern of alcohol consumption that brings your blood alcohol level to 0.08 g/dl.

What is Heavy Drinking for a Woman Versus a Man?

Heavy drinking is also defined differently based on your sex (male/female). The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) described binge drinking as four or more alcoholic drinks in a single sitting for females. Additionally, heavy drinking is considered drinking five or more alcoholic beverages on a single occasion for males. 

While the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration’s definitions of binge drinking may seem different, they are actually speaking about a similar quantity of alcohol. It typically takes 4-5 alcoholic beverages to get your blood alcohol level to a 0.08 g/dl. 

Furthermore, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines “heavy drinking” as binge drinking at least five days in the past month. 

How Much is Too Much Alcohol Per Week? 

If you want to avoid drinking too much alcohol in a given week, you should follow the guidelines set aside for moderate or low-risk drinking by the  National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. They describe moderate or low-risk drinking as no more than seven drinks per week for women. For men, low or moderate-risk drinking is considered less than 14 drinks in a single week. 

Warning: There are certain individuals that should refrain from drinking any alcohol at all, including those who are:

  • Pregnant or may be pregnant 
  • Diagnosed with certain medical conditions
  • Under 21 years old
  • Recovering from Alcohol Use Disorder
  • Taking certain over-the-counter or prescription medications that can negatively interact with alcohol
  • Driving or planning to drive

Avoiding drinking alcohol if you fall into these categories can help you save both your own life and the lives of others around you.

Symptoms of Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can have significant harmful consequences both physically and mentally. Binge drinking can negatively affect almost every part of your body. You may experience the following symptoms while you are intoxicated:

  • Poor judgment
  • Slow reflexes
  • Lower inhibitions
  • Blackouts – not being able to remember things or events while you are intoxicated
  • Difficulty with walking, talking, or standing
  • Emotional or mood changes
  • Dehydration
  • Drowsiness
  • Distracted sleeping
  • Having to urinate more often

These symptoms can be dangerous for your safety, especially when mixed with one another. For example, an intoxicated person with impaired judgment is more likely to engage in risky behavior such as driving while intoxicated. Their vision and reflexes are also worse, so that combined with driving; they can easily lead to a car accident in which either they get hurt or hurt the other party. 

Long-Term Side Effects of Excessive Drinking

Indeed, 20 years of heavy drinking is much worse for you than a glass of wine or two now and then. Drinking excessively for a prolonged period of time will ultimately lead to the deterioration of both your mental and physical health. 

Possible Physical Health Consequences of Binge Drinking include: 

  • Anemia 
  • Increased risk of Cancer
  • Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
  • Increased risk of Heart Disease
  • Increased risk of Dementia
  • Thinning of the bones
  • Damage to your Central Nervous System – this can also lead to tingling, numbness, or pain in your hands and feet.
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Lung Infections
  • Pancreatitis
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Shrinkage of the Frontal Lobes in Your Brain 
  • Infertility

Binge Drinking can also cause serious mental health consequences such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Decrease in cognitive abilities 
  • Aggression


One of the most severe consequences of heavy drinking is forming a dependency on alcohol, also known as an addiction. Becoming addicted to alcohol is incredibly dangerous as it will impact every single part of your life from your safety and daily functioning to your interpersonal relationships and your career.

How Much Drinking Will Make You an Alcoholic?

That is a difficult thing to answer since heavy drinking and alcoholism are not the same thing. Earlier, we defined what heavy drinking is. On the other hand, Alcoholism is classified as a substance use disorder that requires professional treatment in most cases. Many people might engage in heavy drinking but have not actually formed an addiction yet. However, heavy drinking does significantly increase your risk of developing alcohol addiction. 

Defining Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol Use Disorder, also known as Alcoholism, occurs when a person drinks so excessively that their body becomes dependent on alcohol. Alcohol becomes the most important thing in their life. Furthermore, their alcohol abuse might cause them to lose their job, destroy their relationships, and severely impact their emotional health. They know that their alcoholism is causing all these negative consequences, but simple awareness is not enough to make them stop drinking. The changes in their brain are so strong that they need their alcohol fix. This is why alcoholism is often treated with the help of a professional treatment center or therapist.

Do Not be Afraid to Seek Help! 

If you are worried about your heavy drinking or fear that you might be an alcoholic, we are here to help you! With the right resources and treatment options available, you can turn your life around for the better and overcome your addiction. 

Click here to learn more about Alcoholics Anonymous and how this program can help you overcome your drinking problem and regain control of your life! 

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