Binge Drinking and Empathy

This article suggests that binge drinking is likely to cause people to empathize less. Empathy is regarded as an aptitude that defines us as human beings. If binge drinking affects one’s ability to be empathetic, does it mean it can render us less human, or humane?

I imagine it’s difficult to feel empathy for other people when you’re busy killing feeling sorry for yourself.

I’d also question the direction of cause and effect. Does binge drinking cause reduced empathy, or does reduced empathy (AKA feeling especially sorry for yourself vs. for others) cause binge drinking?

Note also there’s really two very different sorts of binge drinking.

The “wild college party everybody’s having fun laughing and carrying on” binge drinking and the “I’m gonna get good and drunk to drown my sorrows” binge drinking. Two utterly different mental states on the part of the drinker, probably with very different causes and very different effects.


I got a boozy friend who has never had empathy. A real asshole, actually. Don’t know why we put up with other.

Maybe the most extreme binge drinker ever Jim Morrison had absolutely zero empathy. But then Teetotaler Adolf Hitler didnt have any either.

“In this study, binge drinking was defined as drinking more than 60 grams of pure alcohol during a single sitting at least once in the past 30 days. That’s about three-quarters of one bottle of wine, or 2.5 pints of lager.”

That’s a pretty liberal definition of binge drinking. The CDC defines it more narrowly:

“Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks or women consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours.”,a%20severe%20alcohol%20use%20disorder.

Or 2 margaritas.

I find it slightly incredible that having a few drinks one weekend/month could make it that much harder to feel empathy. It also seems like a very small study (71 people) and so I question whether it is repeatable.

Of course it’s repeatable. That’s the entire bloody point. To Science!

If that’s the criteria, then I haven’t binged in ages. I may have 3-4 drinks in a day (weekend or vacation), but I stretch it over way more than two hours. If I had 5 in two hours I probably wouldn’t feel much of anything.