Binge drinking is defined as consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time or drinking in order to become inebriated. Binge drinking is defined as consuming more than 8 units of alcohol in a single session for males and 6 units of alcohol in a single session for women in the United Kingdom. Although most of us are aware of the dangers of binge drinking, there is still some debate over the health consequences of having one or two alcoholic beverages every day.
The idea that moderate alcohol intake is harmless, if not beneficial, has been around for decades, and was first proposed by Archie Cochrane, the godfather of evidence-based medicine. Cochrane and colleagues tried to figure out what was behind the disparities in heart disease death rates around the world in a 1979 investigation. Their research found a relationship between increased alcohol use, notably wine drinking, and lower incidence of heart disease. Many studies claiming a health benefit from moderate alcohol use were based on the assumption that non-drinkers were a homogeneous, health-conscious group of people who had always avoided alcohol. In fact, a sizable portion of this group has been forced to stop drinking due to health or addiction issues.
As a result, this group has a higher-than-average percentage of persons who have serious health problems, either as a result of earlier heavy drinking or as a result of health concerns that preclude them from drinking at all. Non-drinkers appeared to be suffering from the lack of alcohol when compared to persons who would enjoy a glass or two a few times a week, when their health concerns were part of the reason they were not drinking in the first place.
What we now know is that drinking alcohol can never be justified on the basis of health. Our grasp of its negative consequences is all too evident - it's not a question of 'if,' but of 'how much.' Long-term heavy drinking has also been related to an increased risk of oral, colon, liver, prostate, and breast cancer.
So, which is worse: binge drinking or heavy drinking on a regular basis? League tables of tragedy, according to Professor Steve Allsop, miss the point - both are damaging, it's simply different forms of harm. These two models of harm are why Australian drinking standards urge not just no more than two standard drinks per day, but also no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion.
In total, more than 200 diseases and injuries are associated with alcohol consumption, 30 of which are caused by alcohol alone. So whether binge drinking or daily drinking, moderation is the most important thing.