What Is an Alcoholic Bender?

Not to Be Confused With 'Binge Drinking'

Man With Vodka Bottle
Going on a Bender Defines a Drinking Problem. © Getty Images

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.

A 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 a 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 Confused With 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.

The term "bender" is one of more than 2,300 street terms that refer to specific drug types or drug activity compiled by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Benders and Lost Weekends

Movies like "The Hangover" can make a bender both a cautionary tale and add to the mystique. 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.

Whether you are binging or going on a bender, your life and health aren't being done any favors. Both are destructive and unhealthy. But 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 and admit the need to address drinking or drug problems.

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