What is Binge Drinking and its Effects and Dangers

Drinking and enjoying the effects of alcohol at social gatherings, such as sporting events, a holiday party, or a concert are part of a normal social life that many people participate in. Occasionally, someone who casually drinks might indulge in a couple more drinks than usual once or twice a year, leading to a bad hangover, but nothing more than that. But then there are those who suffer from alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, as its most commonly referred to in scientific and psychological circles. These unfortunate individuals are people who can’t control their drinking once they begin. They go overboard, saying they will only have one or two drinks, but end up having many more than they thought they would, or going on a binge. Sometimes, they purposely set out to drink to the point of feelings the effects of binge drinking, and later on finding themselves having to deal with the dangers of binge drinking. But what is binge drinking? How much is considered too much? What are the effects of binge drinking, and what are the potential dangers of binge drinking?

binge drinking

What is Binge Drinking?

It might appear to be hard to determine what is binge drinking compared to having more drinks than usual. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers binge drinking to be a serious public health issue. As stated on their website, “Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08g/dl or above. This typically occurs when men consume five or more drinks or women consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours.” (1) Binge drinking is very common amongst Americans. WebMD point out that 1 in 4 Americans indulge in binge drinking at least once a year. 1 in 6 American adults say they regularly binge drink, sometimes several times a month. They usually have about seven drinks on these binges. (2) What is binge drinking when it comes to comparing different types of people, such as pre-teens, young adults, and older adults? The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) points out that rates of binge drinking among 12- to 17-year-olds have been decreasing in the last decade. Still, according to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 4.9 percent of people in this age group reported binge drinking in the past month. Rates of binge drinking among 18- to 22-year-olds have been decreasing in the past decade but remain high. According to the 2019 NSDUH, 27.7 percent of people in this age group who are not enrolled in college full-time and 33.0 percent of full-time college students in this age group reported binge drinking in the past month. Binge drinking is on the rise among older adults—more than 10 percent of adults ages 65 and older reported binge drinking in the past month, and the prevalence is increasing. (3)

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Who Binge Drinks?

Many different types of people binge drink, but what is binge drinking next to a regular drinker without an alcohol use disorder? For the most part people who regularly binge drink are usually alcoholics, people whose drinking is causing them problems at work, home, and social settings. The long-term effects of an alcohol problem can be as dire as ruining relationships, destroying your work career, and having to battle life-long health problems. People suffering from an alcohol use disorder can seek help through AA and counseling, and never have to drink again. If you feel you aren’t an alcoholic but find you binge drink on occasion, you might be wondering why worry about what is binge drinking. The effects of binge drinking and the dangers of binge drinking only affect those with a drinking problem, right? This is not true. Unfortunately, the effects of binge drinking, and the dangers of binge drinking can be felt in the short term as well as the long-term.

What are the Effects and Dangers of Binge Drinking?

So, what are the effects of binge drinking? There are many effects of binge drinking that can potentially be fatal, devastatingly life changing, or a pain to manage. The Recovery Village reports that binge drinking costs the United States about $249 billion a year. These costs are a result of car crashes, legal troubles, healthcare costs, and people performing poorly at work due to their drinking. They also lay out some short-term dangers of binge drinking as:

  • STD’s
  • Unwanted pregnancies
  • Unintended 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 hangover and vomiting
  • Blackouts (4)

Driving under the influence of alcohol is one of the most common dangers of binge drinking that society deals with daily. A BAC of 0.08 isn’t only what is binge drinking from a medical standpoint – it is the legal amount of alcohol someone could have in their system before they are issued a DUI. So, if you are binge drinking and operate a car, regardless of how you feel physically, you have broken the law and can cause extreme danger to yourself and others. There are long-term dangers of binge drinking as well:

  • Alcohol use disorder
  • High blood pressure, stoke, or other cardiovascular issues
  • Children born with fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Liver disease
  • Neurological damage
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancer
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Depression
  • Dementia and declining mental function
  • Seizures
  • Nerve damage
  • Anemia (5)

If you or someone you know is suffering the effects of binge drinking or are scared of the dangers of binge drinking, here are some tips to prevent yourself from falling into a binge.

  • Limit the number of drinks you have in a certain amount of time.
  • Drink at a steadier, more drawn-out pace
  • Eat carbohydrate heavy foods, such pizza, a sandwich, or fries along with your drinking. Of course, it’s important to not binge on foods high in calories
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Drink with people you trust, and also have a designated driver.

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References:

  1. Binge Drinking is a serious but preventable problem of excessive alcohol use | CDC
  2. Binge Drinking: Health Effects, Signs, and Prevention (webmd.com)
  3. Understanding Binge Drinking | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (nih.gov)
  4. Long-Term Effects of Binge Drinking, Binge Drinking Statistics & More (therecoveryvillage.com)
  5. Long-Term Effects of Binge Drinking, Binge Drinking Statistics & More (therecoveryvillage.com)