Binge drinking is a growing problem among people of all ages, especially among the youth. It is defined as the excessive and rapid consumption of alcohol within a short period of time. As more and more people turn to alcohol as an escape from their daily lives, binge drinking has become increasingly common.
Unfortunately, this kind of drinking can have serious short-term and long-term consequences for one’s health and lifestyle. As a result of such excessive consumption, a person may experience physical and psychological effects that can lead to serious health issues.
What is binge drinking?
According to the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the definition of binge drinking is consuming five or more alcoholic drinks at a given time for men and four or more for women.
When consumed moderately, alcohol can be harmless, but if unmonitored and uncontrolled, one could find themself sliding down the slippery slope of alcohol consumption that eventually leads to addiction.
The risks of this high, unhealthy alcohol consumption are felt immediately and, in the long run, can impact one’s everyday life as one becomes dependent on alcohol to function normally.
Usually, two standard drinks within one hour will raise one’s blood alcohol level or blood alcohol content (BAC) to 0.05%BAC when binge drinking. Given different biological factors, the effects of alcohol vary differently from one person to the next, with women generally feeling drunk faster than men.
It's important to note that binge drinking is a symptom of alcohol abuse or alcohol use disorder. If one is not suffering from alcohol addiction, partaking in binge drinking increases the risk of developing alcohol abuse.
Consequently, it could lead to several health complications and mental health disorders.
Why do people binge drink?
Binge drinking results from many different problems and misconceptions. Some of them are:
Wanting to have lots of fun
As alcohol is commonly used as a mood booster, many drinkers might mistakenly believe that more alcohol means more fun. This mistake could be costly as drinkers will pay the price in the form of horrible hangover symptoms, including nausea and vomiting.
A quick confidence boost
There’s a reason alcohol is known as liquid courage. Having a few drinks tends to give people a boost of confidence as it promotes a release of dopamine, which can lead them to do things they might not normally do when sober.
Peer pressure is a real problem when working on cutting down on drinking, and it doesn’t help that your mates call you ‘lightweight’ when turning down a drink. Studies have shown that peer pressure can lead to alcohol abuse.
Having a few alcoholic beverages is often seen as a way to wind down after a long week at work or to drown out one’s sorrows. Unfortunately, the soothing effects of alcohol in dealing with emotional issues are only a temporary fix.
Accidentally binge drinking
The line between drinking and excessive drinking is often blurred after the first few drinks. As we know, alcohol impairs our senses, and we might make the mistake of drinking more than what we’re capable of, leading to adverse short and long-term effects explained below.
Effects of binge drinking
Drinking any amount of alcohol will take its toll on the drinker. Having a few drinks in one sitting will result in temporary impairment which won’t pose much of a concern but regular binge drinking carries detrimental effects on one’s social, physical and mental health that may be irreversible.
Short-term effects of binge drinking
Drinking alcohol comes with risks ranging from bad decision-making to being caught on the road above the legal BAC limit of 0.05. Binge drinking, however, is more dangerous.
The main short-term danger of binge drinking is the risk of alcohol poisoning, which can lead to death. A single night of binge drinking, especially at higher amounts, can lead to acute inflammation of the pancreas, stomach, or liver.
Binge drinking increases the risks of injuries through overly impaired senses, decision-making skills, judgement, coordination and more.
On top of this, binge drinking also affects vital organs such as the:
- Heart: Drinking can cause high blood pressure and irregular heart rates that can lead to sudden death from heart failure
- Lungs: Alcoholic beverages inhibit the gag reflex, which can lead to vomit, saliva or other substances entering the lungs. This can cause infections.
- Kidneys: As alcohol is a diuretic, constant urination can lead to dehydration. The risk of dehydration increases if a drinker also experiences bouts of vomiting.
On average, your liver can only process one standard drink per hour; anything more than this will increase your BAC. The faster you drink, the higher your BAC will be, and the greater your chance of alcohol poisoning. Even if you stop drinking, your BAC will continue to rise as the alcohol in the stomach and intestines will continue to enter the bloodstream.
This can happen even if someone is unconscious.
Besides health problems, alcohol increases the chance of dangerous sexual behaviour or physical assaults. Moreover, excessive alcohol intake also affects your actions, increasing your risk of injuries and death from motor vehicle accidents, drowning, suffocation, and other accidents.
Long-term effects of binge drinking
Many short-term effects of binge drinking will eventually be just a blurry memory the morning after, but partaking in binge drinking regularly can produce adverse long-term effects.
Constant bouts of binge drinking increase the risk of many types of cancer, including liver, mouth, and more by damaging one’s DNA and preventing the body from repairing it. Even a few drinks a week is likely to increase women's breast cancer risk.
Too much drinking will also negatively affect one’s cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of heart failure. Long-term heavy drinking can also cause complications in one’s
- Immune system: Chronic binge drinking leads to anemia and low platelets, which suppresses one’s immune system.
- Bones and muscles: Heavy long-term use of alcohol can interfere with the absorption of calcium and bone formation.
- Nervous system: Constant bouts of binge drinking can cause dementia or impaired balance and coordination.
- Sexual health: Heavy drinking also reduces fertility in men and women while decreasing a man’s sex drive. Pregnant drinkers are also at risk of harming the fetus.
How to stop binge drinking
It is important to keep track of your drinking patterns as to not binge drink. A personal breathalyser can be a great tool for monitoring your alcohol consumption and help you stay in control.
Apart from using a breathalyser as a tool to monitor your drinking, some tips to stop binge drinking are:
- Put a cap on what time you need to be home so you don’t stay out drinking for too long
- Branch out and try an alcohol free drink
- Always eat a filling meal and alternate your drinks with water or soft drinks
- Opt for breakfast or lunch dates instead of nights out
- Try new activities that don’t involve drinking
Finding ways to enjoy yourself without alcohol, such as attending social events or exercising, can also help to reduce your drinking. Remember that over-consumption of alcohol can have serious short and long-term health effects, so if you are going to be drinking, drink responsibly.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your business’s needs.
Written by Jaka Exstrada