After a stressful week at work, a drink or two out with friends or at home probably sounds just like what you need to recharge. But what happens when a casual drink to adjust your attitude on a Friday or Saturday night becomes a blur? What happens if it turns into a night where you do things you normally wouldn’t do, or worse, that you regret?
You may be a weekend alcoholic or binge drinker. This issue arises when casual drinking becomes something more of a drinking problem, an issue of dependency, or actual alcoholism.
That’s right. You can be an alcoholic, even if you only drink on the weekends. A lot of people who only drink on the weekends justify their binge drinking because they only drink alcohol a couple of times a week.
Weekend drinkers like to deny that they have an alcohol addiction and don’t pursue help or treatment. When untreated and unchecked, weekend drinking can lead to daily drinking and alcohol use disorder (AUD). Even though binge drinking is not quite as serious as AUD, it may lead to alcoholism and serious health issues eventually.
What Is Binge Drinking?
The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that there are more than 139 million alcohol users. And of those 139 million, more than 43% are binge users. One drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men is considered moderate drinking by most experts. Drinking more than that puts you at risk of becoming an alcoholic.
Binge drinking often occurs in college students and other young adults. However, most binge drinking is done by adults over the age of 30, and the prevalence of binge drinking in adults is increasing. So what is it?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that raises blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 (0.08 %) or higher. This is typically 4+ drinks for women, 5+ drinks for men, all consumed within a period of about 2 hours.
8 Signs of a Weekend Alcoholic
Having a few drinks with friends on the weekend doesn’t become a problem for some people. But for others, frequent binge drinking can be a sign of a bigger problem. There are several signs that your weekend drinking could actually be signs of high-functioning alcoholism. It’s important for you to recognize these signs to make sure you’re not getting out of control.
1. You can’t stop after one or two
When you begin to feel that alcohol buzz, your body may start to crave a third or fourth drink. Also, when you’re socializing and drinking, you might not even realize how much you’ve had to drink in a short amount of time.
2. You lie about your drinking
If you get to the point where you feel that you have to lie or hide your drinking habits, this may suggest that there’s a problem. An individual who is high-functioning will often go to any lengths to hide their drinking habits. They may downplay the amount they’re drinking or how often, or they may just lie about it.
3. You have frequent blackouts
Recurrent blackouts can also be a sign that you’re drinking more than you meant to on a regular basis. Alcohol affects the way your brain forms and holds on to memories. If you aren’t able to remember things that happened after a night of drinking, there’s a strong chance you have a problem.
4. You think about drinking on the weekend
Consider whether you’re thinking about drinking outside of your weekend activities. As addiction takes hold, the mind begins to develop an obsession with the substance. Even when you’re not drinking, your mind may be telling you that you should be. This usually appears as a fixation on the good times you had while drinking or your plans to drink in the future.
5. There’s a change in your priorities
While you are still handling your responsibilities, you may be giving up other activities to prioritize drinking. This may indicate a problem. Activities and hobbies you used to enjoy are eventually neglected or eliminated as AUD progresses. A high-functioning alcoholic has to wear many hats and they will start to abandon things that don’t include drinking or keeping up appearances.
6. You regret your binge drinking
By Monday, do you regret the behavior or activities that happened over the weekend? This could mean that your drinking has gotten more out of control than you thought. Some common events are waking up in a strange place and forgetting how you got there, not being able to remember what you said to someone important, and losing track of your money and how much you spend while drinking.
7. You need to justify your weekend drinking ritual
One of the distinctive features of alcoholism is the presence of predictable and repetitive drinking behaviors. Social drinkers who aren’t afflicted with alcoholism usually need a reason or occasion to drink. And they can take it or leave it. A person with high-functioning alcoholism tries to restrain the ritual by imposing time controls on their drinking. For example, drinking only after work, or on the weekend. If you stop at the liquor store or bar on your way home every Friday at the end of your work week, it’s a pattern.
8. You usually underestimate how much you drink
People with alcoholism typically underestimate and minimize the amount they drink. People with high-functioning alcoholism are the same. You might believe that you’ve only had three beers when really, you polished off a 6-pack. The inaccuracies in reporting what they drink by people with high-functioning alcoholism can be compounded by a stronger sense of denial because they are so functional.
If you recognize yourself in these signs, your drinking could very well be high-functioning alcoholism. Getting treatment with medical professionals is important before your weekend drinking becomes full-blown AUD.
Avoiding brain fog from drinking during the week so that you can drink guilt-free on the weekends is a common line of thinking. And it seems like a rational way to achieve “balance.” But is it really better to go all-out two days a week instead of spreading your drinking out by just having a glass or two of wine each night?
Sorry, but that logic is “absolutely flawed,” according to Peter Miller, Deakin University professor of addiction studies. “Both scenarios carry their own risks.” If you drink moderately daily, your body never gets a break from metabolizing alcohol. On the other hand, if you drink heavily for two or three days in a row, or even have a one-day binge, your body is subjected to more extreme stresses.
Is Weekend Drinking Bad for You?
If you’re wondering if it’s bad for your health to drink alcohol every weekend, the answer is “yes.” Binge drinking puts pressure on your body’s systems, from your heart to your brain. If you drink up to ten drinks between Friday and Saturday, your body has to work a lot harder to recover.
Even if it’s just on the weekends or having a casual drink, regularly drinking alcohol can lead to swelling and inflammation of the liver. And continuing to indulge in alcohol consumption on the weekends, can cause you to end up with cirrhosis of the liver, which is irreversible. That’s a lot of damaged cells in your brain and in your liver which increases the impact drinking has. There’s also a heightened risk of a range of cancers and harmful consequences.
One of the common risks of weekend bingeing is blackout. You may appear to be reasonably conscious but if you wake up the next day and can’t remember parts of the night before, you have literally damaged your brain. The long-term consequences of blackout drinking are not fully understood. However, early evidence suggests that there may be significant effects on decision-making and memory.
Besides the blackout, research has shown that we must be aware of the cognitive consequences of heavy weekend drinking. Studies of university students found that they were less able to manage complex tasks even days after binge drinking.
Consuming three or more drinks can also have an effect on sleep quality by producing a “rebound” of wakefulness in the middle of the night. Because alcohol is a sedative, your body fights against it by increasing natural stimulants. This affects your sleep even after the alcohol has mostly left your system. Additionally, there can be similar effects on anxiety and mood.
Anxiety and Depression
Similar to sleep quality, regular consumption can lead to anxiety and depression. You may have a feeling of euphoria when you have your first drink, but, over time, alcohol lowers your levels of an inhibitory neurotransmitter (chemical messengers in your brain) known as GABA. Everybody has this neurotransmitter that helps regulate the nervous system.
The consumption of alcohol lowers the production of GABA, and when the body goes into GABA withdrawals, the individual may begin to experience dark thoughts, mood changes, and high levels of anxiety.
This darkness and anxiety can cause issues in relationships, abuse, and violence.
Effects of Daily Moderate Drinking
It’s clear that binge drinking has a lot of unwanted health consequences. So it would appear that spreading your drinks through the week (maybe 1-2 standard drinks per night) should be a better choice than consuming them all between Friday and Saturday. Still, it’s wise to avoid drinking every day of the week. Even light drinkers have a higher risk of high blood pressure, a decline in cognitive abilities, and several types of cancer.
Although you might not notice any drawbacks to moderate daily drinking, it’s important to give your body a break from booze. Remember, for the toxin to be cleared from your body, it must be processed into an even more toxic substance–acetaldehyde (a relative of formaldehyde). Your liver (in particular) and all other organs, including your brain, don’t get a break if you drink night after night.
When Is It Time to Get Help?
Ask yourself these questions, and be brutally honest:
- Do I drink to relax or because I have problems?
- Do I prefer to drink alone instead of with other people?
- Is my work or education suffering because of my drinking?
- Have I tried to stop drinking, or drink less, and I couldn’t do it?
- Have I ever had a memory loss because of my drinking?
- Do I drink in the morning before school or work?
- Do I lie about how much or how often I drink?
- Have other people commented about my drinking and thought it was a problem?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it’s time to talk to a medical professional about your drinking. It takes courage to face the fact that you might have a problem, and getting help is a brave move. It can be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
The sooner you talk to someone about what’s going on, the sooner things will start to turn around for you. At Jaywalker Lodge, we can provide you with comprehensive treatment to help you get back on track no matter what your stage of alcohol use. You don’t have to “hit bottom” before you turn things around.
We know that you never dreamed that your casual weekend drinking could possibly lead to an alcohol use disorder. And it doesn’t have to stay that way. We have several programs so you can be sure to get the treatment you need for your situation. Located in Carbondale, CO, we can offer you a beautiful setting and experienced professionals who can help you find your true self and move on to a fulfilling life. Contact us today.