Drinking to excess in a short space of time.
It is widely accepted that binge drinking is on the increase - in the UK at least - but there isn't an accepted definition of what is meant by the term. Like great art, one might not be able to define it but you know it when you see it. In the past 'binge drinking' referred to consuming enough alcohol to make one drunk over an extended period of time, usually two days or more. More recently, the term is used to describe intensive drinking sessions where large quantities are drunk in a short space of time, often in rowdy groups in city centres. What is deemed a 'large quantity' is open to debate. The UK government recommends a limit of 21 units of alcohol/week for men an 14/week for women (a unit is 10ml of alcohol - about half a pint of beer). Various definitions of binge drinking relate to this notional limit. One measure is half the weekly amount being drunk in one session.
It may feel like a recent practice but binge drinking has been with us for some time. Not least because the word 'binge' originally meant what we now mean by 'binge drinking', that is, a heavy drinking bout. This unruly word is first recorded in print by Anne Baker in A Glossary of Northamptonshire words and phrases, 1854:
"A man goes to the alehouse to get a good binge, or to binge himself."