Binge drinking involves a dangerous pattern of excessive alcohol consumption. Typically, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will rise to 0.08 percent or above after binge drinking. For women, binge drinking is defined as having four or more drinks within a two-hour timeframe. For men, binge drinking is identified as having five or more drinks over the course of two hours.
In the United States, binge drinking is most common in individuals ages 26 and older. In fact, this age group accounts for roughly 70 percent of all binge drinking episodes. For some people, especially those on prescription medications or other drugs, it may take a smaller amount of alcohol to reach a binge drinking level.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a drink is classified under one the following conditions:
- One 12-oz. beer
- One 5-oz. glass of wine
- One 1.5-oz. shot of distilled spirits
While binge drinking is not the same as alcohol use disorder (AUD), it significantly increases the risk of developing an alcohol abuse problem. A shift from binge drinking to alcoholism can happen quickly, leading to serious health complications and other harmful consequences.
Reasons for Binge Drinking
The number of people who binge drink continues to increase each year. Even with research studies and information about the dangers of excessive drinking, alcohol is still frequently viewed as a fun pastime. Although binge drinking is not alcoholism or alcohol dependency, it can be just as risky. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can affect you mentally, physically and emotionally. Not only can binge drinking hurt you, it can also take a toll on your family members and friends.
Several reasons for binge drinking include:
One of the most common reasons as to why people binge drink is to loosen up and forget about underlying problems. A person may start feeling good after one drink and continue drinking more to maintain the effect.
Many social events involve alcohol. The temptation to let go of inhibitions and party all night long influences many people. However, it can easily become a recurrent trend – a slippery slope for potential alcohol dependency.
With numerous drinking games, alcohol consumption turns into a competition. Peers try to outdo one another and often consume dangerous amounts of alcohol.
Many adolescents and young adults want to be viewed as their own unique person. As a way to resist rules and social norms, some will binge drink to boost confidence and assert their independence.
Binge Drinking Side Effects
Binge drinking is associated with a wide range of health and behavioral problems. While some side effectsare minor and only last temporarily, others can cause permanent damage.
The sudden but temporary side effects of binge drinking are:
- Coordination problems
- Memory loss
- Poor decision making
Drinking too much alcohol too quickly can put you at risk for various health problems. For instance, alcohol delays your reaction time which can put you and other drivers in danger if you get behind the wheel of a car. Additionally, excessive drinking impairs your judgement, leaving you at risk for unintentional injuries like sexual assault, domestic violence or alcohol poisoning.
Along with short-term side effects, frequent binge drinking can lead to a host of long-term complications. These more serious consequences are often overlooked because of the quick, one-night occurrence of some binge drinking episodes.
Several harmful and long-lasting side effects of binge drinking include:
- Brain damage
- Liver disease
- Heart problems
The side effects of binge drinking generally depend on the amount you drink, how quickly you drink, weight, gender, other drugs involved and medical history. Take gender for example. Binge drinking affects women differently than men. Since women generally have less body water than men, they reach a higher blood alcohol concentration level quicker.
Adolescents and Binge Drinking
Alcohol is one of the most commonly used substance by adolescents under the age of 18. Drinking at a younger age drastically increases the likelihood of developing alcoholism or other addictive traits later on in life. Across the nation, binge drinking has led to extreme rates of car accidents, hospitalization, death and suicide in teens and young adults.
Since the adolescent brain is still developing, alcohol has different effects on teenagers compared to older adults. Prolonged alcohol use can affect brain functionality and potentially cause lifelong cognitive problems. Other problems such as behavioral outbursts, alcohol dependency and irreversible health conditions may also arise from underage drinking.
Prevention plays a key role in reducing the number of adolescents who binge drink. The harmful side effects of alcohol can be discussed at home, in the classroom or with a medical professional. An open dialogue will make teens feel more comfortable to ask questions and express themselves.
Treatment for Binge Drinking
Recognizing the harmful effects of binge drinking is the first step toward recovery. Seeking alcohol treatment will show you how to eliminate drinking from your life, as well as prevent further problems.
Don’t let alcohol lead you down a path of destruction. Treatment can provide you with the tools and resources to help you be the best you can be. When you’re happy and healthy, everything else will fall into place.
Roughly one in six American adults binge drinks four times a month and consume an estimated eight drinks per binge.
Adolescents and young adults between the ages of 12 and 20 consume more than 90 percent of their alcohol by binge drinking.
More than half of the alcohol consumed by adults in the U.S. is in the form of binge drinks.
Life Can Be Better Than This
Alcoholism doesn’t define who you are. If you’re ready to quit drinking and get your life back on track, talk with a treatment specialist now about programs that are tailored to binge drinking recovery.
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