Binge drinking is a common form of alcohol consumption that is popular among college-age adults. Even though it is common, it can still be dangerous. People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol at social gatherings often don’t realize that a hangover is not their only consequence. Drinking alcohol excessively can have a major impact on one’s physical, mental, and psychological health. It can increase one’s risk of driving while impaired and it can also be a sign of alcohol abuse and addiction.
What is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is a form of heavy drinking. It is officially defined as:
- For men: drinking five or more drinks within a two-hour time period
- For women: drinking four or more drinks within a two-hour time period
This includes consumption of any time of alcohol, including wine, beer, or hard liquor. Binge drinking is the most common among adults between the ages of 18 and 34. Binge drinking also commonly occurs on college campuses.
Why do People Binge Drink?
People binge drink for various reasons and personal circumstances. In most cases, binge drinking occurs in social settings, such as parties. In these cases, people may binge drink in order to feel like they fit in, to easy social anxiety, or simply because they are curious about the experience of intoxication. Teenagers may binge drink because they feel like its an act of rebellion.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people who binge drink are not dependent on alcohol. However, this doesn’t mean that binge drinking doesn’t come without risk. It can lead to or be a symptom of a serious problem.
Reasons for binge drinking that may indicate alcohol abuse include:
- Drinking to numb emotions
- Drinking to distract from negative experiences
- Drinking to self-medicate
- Drinking to get dangerously drunk
- Strong alcohol cravings
Using alcohol to distract from personal issues is not a sustainable coping tool. Over time, excessive drinking can pose a serious problem.
Short Term Effects of Binge Drinking
Drinking heavy amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time can lead to dangerous levels of intoxication. There are physical, mental, and psychological effects of binge drinking.
Physical Effects of Binge Drinking Include:
- Lack of coordination
- Low blood sugar
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeats
- Inhibited gag reflex
Binge drinking can also pose the risk of alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning can be serious and potentially life-threatening if left untreated.
Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms:
- Unusually slow breathing
- Loss of consciousness
If you notice the symptoms of alcohol poisoning, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Mental and Psychological Effects of Binge Drinking Include:
- Impaired judgement
- Increased appetite
- Lowered inhibition
- Memory blackouts
Increased Risk for Accidents
One of the most overlooked dangers of binge drinking is the likelihood of leading to serious accidents or injuries.
Dangerous Risks of Binge Drinking Include:
- Drunk driving fatalities
- Domestic violence
- Sexual assault
Long-Term Effects and Risks of Binge Drinking
Although there are many short-term effects from binge drinking, there are also long-term effects of it. The more frequently a person binge drinks, the more likely they are to experience long-term effects.
Long-Term Effects and Health Risks of Binge Drinking Include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Various cancers
- Weakened immune system
- Memory and learning problems
- Nerve damage
- Poor work performance
- Inability to stay in school or keep a job
Frequent binge drinking can also increase a person’s tolerance to alcohol. This can cause a dependence on alcohol. Alcohol dependence can make it difficult for a person to reduce or stop their drinking completely. People who become dependent on alcohol are at greater risk for alcohol addiction. They may also experience withdrawal symptoms within 12 hours of their last drink.
Treatment for Alcohol Abuse
Although most people who binge drink are not expected to develop a serious alcohol problem, many still struggle in silence for fear of shame, addiction, or other personal reasons and they don’t seek help. At Holland Pathways, we offer a safe, accepting environment for all of our clients.