What Is an Alcoholic Bender?

Not to Be Confused With 'Binge Drinking'

young men drinking beer and cheering
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What is a bender? This slang term can mean a drug party, an extended period of continued drug use. An alcoholic bender is a multiple-day drinking spree during which the person does not eat and gets very little sleep. If you're on a bender, you might pass out for a short time, wake up and start drinking again.

Going on a Bender

An alcoholic bender does not refer to one evening of intoxication. It refers to a drinking spree that is extended over at least two nights. But some definitions insist that in order to be a true bender, the drinking spree has to last at least three days.

Why three days? Because a weekend is two days and there are many drinkers who drink all weekend. Going that third day, and possibly missing work or school day, makes the drinking spree a self-destructive bender, rather than just another lost weekend.

During a bender, the drinker typically begins drinking as soon as he wakes up, continues drinking until he passes out again, then wakes up and repeats the cycle.

The origin of the use of the term "bender" to refer to an extended bout of drinking alcohol is not certain. Some historians think it may refer to the act of bending one's elbow to take a drink, while others believe it is associated with the phrase "getting bent out of shape."

Binge Drinking vs. Bender

Sometimes the term "binge drinking" is confused with "bender." Some people believe that warnings against binge drinking are warning against going on multiple day bout of intoxication, but that is not what binge drinking is at all.

Binge drinking is drinking five or more drinks in any one drinking session for men, or four or more drinks a day for women. Harmful drinking can occur long before it reaches the level of a bender.

While going on a bender might be considered self-destructive behavior, simply drinking five beers or a bottle of wine in one day is considered hazardous drinking.

What Happens to Your Body

Whether you are binging or going on a bender, your life and health aren't being done any favors. Both are destructive and unhealthy. Drinking for three days certainly takes a toll on your brain and body, including inflammation, nausea, racing heart, and some pretty severe hangover symptoms.

Researchers attribute these effects to excess acetaldehyde (one of the byproducts your liver pumps out after breaking down alcohol) that travels through your blood to your brain, heart, and stomach when drinking heavily. When you go on a bender, you are not giving your liver anytime to recovery.

You are also putting yourself at risk of the following health concerns:

Signs to Call 911

Knowing the signs of alcohol use poisoning and calling 911 immediately can help you save someone's life.

  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Keeps passing out
  • Seizures
  • Slow heart rate
  • No gag reflex (which prevents choking when vomiting)
  • Extremely low body temperature or clammy or blue-tinged skin
  • Slow or irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between any two breaths)
  • Vomiting while passed out without waking up during or after vomiting

When to Get Help

If your continuous drinking or drugging session goes bad, you may end up committing or being the victim of assault, destroying property, or finally wake up in jail, perhaps with little memory of what transpired.

A three-day bender that results in missing work or shirking other duties can be especially destructive to your reputation. It may be a wake-up call to others that you have a drinking problem and may soon be hitting bottom.

Frequent benders may be a sign of an alcohol use disorder. If you habitually drink in excess for consecutive days, you may want to take an online quiz to see if your drinking has reached the level of alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.

If you find that you have developed a problem with alcohol, help is available. Don't wait until it's too late. Reaching out to a trusted family member or friend or health care provider is a great first step on the road to recovery.

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