Binge drinking is just like anything else you can binge on, like food or Netflix, and just like you might suspect it’s not the healthiest choice. But why else is binge drinking dangerous? There are short-term and long-term effects on the body and a possibility of an alcohol abuse disorder. Let’s see what the numbers say and talk about how you can stop binge drinking once and for all.
What Is Binge Drinking and Who Is Doing It?
Excessive alcohol use can be dangerous, but how do you know when it’s excessive? One type of drinking we hear about often is binge drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration above 0.08 grams percent. This generally happens when men consume five or more drinks, and when women consume four or more drinks in about two hours. The term “binge” was originally adopted to describe a pattern of problematic drinking characterized by heavy use, then followed by a period of abstinence.
Binge Drinking Statistics
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), rates of binge drinking are highest among young people aged 18 to 25 years. The lowest binge drinking rates are found among older adults. One in 10 adults between the ages of 55 and 64 years have engaged in drinking in the past month. Additionally, when talking about older adults, aged 60 years and up, binge drinking should be defined as no more than three drinks per day for men and two drinks per day for women. The prevalence of binge drinking is something to note. In 2014, 24.7 percent of people aged 18 or older reported that they binge drank in the past month and 6.7 percent reported that had engaged in heavy drinking in the past month.
Reasons for Binge Drinking
People binge drink for a number of reasons. For some, it’s a coping mechanism while for others, it’s a means of alleviating emotional problems or stress. The following are some of the most popular reasons for binge drinking, according to The Alcoholism Guide:
- To be more comfortable or self-confident in social settings
- For the mere enjoyment or thrill of it, especially in party settings
- Peer pressure and desire to be accepted
- To compete with someone else as a means of asserting dominance
- Mere curiosity of the sensation
- As a means of rebellion (common with teens)
- To self-medicate while dealing with personal issues
Short and Long-term Effects of Binge Drinking
Binge drinking isn’t just dangerous in the long-term, it also has short-term effects that can be detrimental to the user. First of all, binge drinking costs everyone. Excessive drinking, including binge drinking, cost the U.S. $249 billion in 2010. This occurred due to losses in productivity, health care, crime, and other miscellaneous expenses. Another noteworthy statistic is binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers. Short-term effects of binge drinking include:
Short Term Effects of Binge Drinking
- Sexually transmitted diseases.
- Unintended pregnancies.
- Unintentional injuries like falls, burns, car crashes, and drowning.
- Sexual assault.
- Academic consequences like missing class, doing poorly on exams, and receiving lower grades.
- Sickness like hangovers and vomiting.
Long-term effects of binge drinking include:
- Alcohol use disorder
- High blood pressure, stroke, or other cardiovascular issues
- Children born with fetal alcohol syndrome
- Liver disease
- Neurological damage
- Suppressed immune system
- Dementia and declining mental function
- Nerve damage
Binge drinking on a regular basis can be a characteristic of an alcohol use disorder. There are mild, moderate, and severe cases of this disease. Besides binge drinking, alcohol user disorder can be characterized by drinking more or longer than you intended, getting sick from drinking, getting into situations while drinking where you get hurt or your chances of getting hurt increase, experienced cravings, or gave up activities or jobs because of drinking. In 2012, approximately 7.2 percent (or 17 million adults) in the U.S. aged 18 or older had an alcohol use disorder in 2012.
How to Stop Binge Drinking
If binge drinking has become a pattern in your life or the life of someone you know, how can you stop? As a country, there have evidence-based interventions enacted to prevent binge drinking and its related effects such as increasing the costs of alcoholic beverages and tax, holding alcohol retailers responsible for the harm caused by underage or intoxicated patrons, limiting days and hours of alcohol retail sales, consistent enforcement of laws against underage drinking and alcohol-impaired driving, and screening and counseling for alcohol misuse.
To stop the pattern of binge drinking, it’s important to understand why and how you drink. To help you figure this out it might be beneficial for you to get the help of an addictions counselor, a doctor, a therapist, or a treatment center. Understanding your relationship with alcohol will give you the opportunity to see if sobriety is something you should strive for. If binge drinking has become a normal pattern in your life, you may have an alcohol use disorder.
Abstinence is a successful way many have recovered from an alcohol use disorder. Learning how to live a life without the crutch of alcohol and drugs can be difficult, but it’s possible, and it’s rewarding. Through group support, 12-step meetings, and learning the proper coping mechanisms and skills on how to get through life, binge drinking will not be a solution to your problems anymore. If you want to stop binge drinking, the smartest thing you can do is reach out for help. You don’t have to do this alone.
“Drinking levels defined.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Accessed October 11, 2016. <https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking>.
“Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Accessed October 11, 2016. <https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics>.
“Beyond Hangovers.” NIH Publication. No. 15-7604. Published 2010. Accessed October 11, 2016. <http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.pdf>
“Fact sheets – Binge Drinking.” CDC. Accessed October 11, 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm>