The consumption of alcohol in itself is not a problem. People drink in social settings, to relax and in celebration.
Alcohol is legal for adults over the age of 21 and can be purchased at stores as well as consumed in many public places like at restaurants, ballgames and bars. Binge drinking, or bringing your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or higher, is even fairly common.
According to national studies sanctioned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, one in six adults in the United States binge drinks around four times a month. Binge drinking is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in America.
Binge Drinking Facts
Alcohol is such an accepted part of society and even our everyday life that is easy to assume that it must not be dangerous. Studies have even been done suggesting that a moderate consumption of alcohol can actually lengthen your life. The key word is moderation. Binge drinking is the exact opposite of moderate.
Binge drinking raises your BAC to dangerous levels. BAC is calculated based on one “standard” drink an hour. A standard drink is defined by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the NIAAA, as:
- One 12-oz beer
- A 5-oz glass of wine
- A shot of distilled spirits equaling 1.5 oz.
Alcohol content per drink also varies. For example, a regular beer contains about 5 percent alcohol per 12 ounces, while a 5-ounce glass of wine is about 12 percent alcohol, and a 1.5-ounce shot of spirits is closer to 40 percent.
Binge drinking means that a man consumes five or more standard drinks and a woman four or more in the span of about two hours. Many factors play a role in determining BAC such as:
- Medications the user is taking
- Food intake
- Type of drink
- Health of user
Your emotional state at the time of consumption as well as the frequency with which you drink can also factor in to your BAC.
The World Health Organization reports that 16 percent of drinkers over the age of 15 participate in binge drinking.
College students are especially susceptible to binge drinking episodes; more than half of the alcohol consumed by adults is via binge drinking, and 90 percent of under-age drinking is binge drinking. Men are twice as likely to binge drink than women.
Short-Term Health Risks
Binge drinking carries many of the same short-term health risks as alcohol consumption including:
- Motor skill impairment
- Lowered inhibitions
- Decreased reaction time
- Poor judgment abilities
- Blurred vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sexual disinhibition and dysfunction
- Sleep disturbance
- Temperature regulation
- Memory loss
- Black outs
- Intentional and unintentional injuries
- Exaggerated emotions
- Alcohol poisoning
Alcohol lowers inhibitions and changes a person’s mood and behavior causing them to have poor judgment and slower reaction times. While alcohol temporarily increases a drinker’s self-confidence and can lead to high-like feeling, it can also have the opposite effect since it is a depressant. The School of Public Health at West Virginia University links crimes and alcohol, stating you are more likely to commission a crime or be a victim of crime when drinking.
Drinking and driving is also an issue as drunk people continue to get behind the wheel with their slowed reaction times and poor judgment. According to MADD, someone is injured in a drunk driving crash every 90 seconds, and 28 people a day die in the US alone due to these crashes.
Binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning, like an overdose, which is when high levels of alcohol suppresses the nervous and respiratory system. Symptoms are excessive vomiting, disorientation, low body temperature, and irregular breathing patterns. This can lead to comas, choking, extreme dehydration and even death. If you suspect alcohol poisoning, seek help immediately, as this is a medical emergency.
Long-Term Health Risks
Long-term abuse of alcohol can wreak havoc on your entire body. It affects your brain, internal organs, respiratory, and immune and nervous systems, and it increases your risks for disease and cancer to name a few.
Along with all of the short-term health risks, alcohol can also have the following risks long-term:
- Liver disease
- Neurological damage
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Lowered immune system function
- Fetal alcohol syndrome
- Increases risk of developing certain cancers
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Brain damage
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Heart disease
- Alcoholism and alcohol dependency
- Legal and social problems
- Lowering of productivity in the workplace
While all of these are related to abuse of alcohol, binge drinkers are also at greater risk of stroke and heart disease than those who don’t binge drink regularly, according to a study sanctioned by the American Heart Association.
When to Seek Help
Knowing when someone has problems with alcohol or binge drinking can be tricky. Society can always find excuses to go drinking; whether to drown sorrows or to celebrate, alcohol finds its way in. Binge drinkers may not be alcoholics either, but drinking more than five drinks in a sitting regularly may be a sign to seek treatment for binge drinking.
Binge drinking treatment varies from treatment for alcoholism in that it is a more targeted approach and helps the drinker to learn to moderate drinking instead of the more rigorous plan to cut alcohol out completely. Here at Axis, we can help determine the level of treatment necessary with individual treatment plans. A highly trained treatment coordinator is only a phone call away. Call now.