What Is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is defined as excessive alcohol drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. In men this normally means 5 or more drinks within 2 hours and 4 or more drinks for women. The BAC shows the ratio of blood to alcohol in one’s body; 0.08 grams percent means 8 parts alcohol for every 10,000 parts of blood. A BAC of 0.4 grams percent or above can be fatal.
Binge drinking is normally associated with college students although a national study shows that 70% of binge drinking occurs in adults 26 years and older. Despite this the association is still valid with 42% of college students reporting to have had at least one binge drinking episode.
Binge drinking can create severe consequences; immediately during the episode and long-term health risks can also occur.
Common effects and risks from binge drinking include:
- Impairment of motor coordination
- Impairment of reasoning and decision making
- Reckless behavior
- Potential violence and Aggression
- Loss of consciousness (passing out)
- Loss of memory (blacking out)
- Potential alcohol poisoning resulting in death
- Potential respiratory depression resulting in death
- Potential choking of vomit resulting in death
These effects in themselves can lead to other problems creating legal or health risks as aggressive or risky behavior become more likely. Examples of these are car accidents, unplanned pregnancies, assaults both physical and sexual with a large factor of rape incidents having alcohol as a factor:
- 55% of men who admit to having performed acts of sexual assault also admit to having been under the influence of alcohol.
- 53% of women who experienced sexual aggression on a date admit to having been under the influence of alcohol at the time.
Alongside the common immediate effects described above; Binge drinking and continuous heavy drinking can also have serious health risks in the long run:
- Can cause alcohol dependence and alcoholism
- Damages ability to learn and remember
- Alcohol is the second biggest cause of mouth and throat cancer
- Liver cirrhosis leading to liver cancer
- Binge drinking increases the risk of heart attack or stroke
- Excessive drinking can cause arrhythmia
- Inflamed liver can lead to alcohol hepatitis which can result in liver failure and death
- Stomach ulcers
- Internal bleeding
- Pancreas inflammation potentially resulting in death
- Colon ulcers
- Colon cancer
- Decreases the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and vitamins
- Chronic kidney disease
- Impotence in men
- Infertility in men and women
- Cause mental disorders such as an anxiety disorder
- Can create red and blotchy skin
Risk of these long-term effects increases with more consistent binge drinking over extended periods of time.
Binge drinking can become a serious problem when it becomes a factor in those suffering from mental or psychiatric disorders. Those with anxiety or depressive disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder amongst others will often, especially if the condition is undiagnosed, self-medicate with alcohol. Self-medicating with alcohol is dangerous and in itself can end up creating more problems and more risks of health damage. The alcohol may help alleviate some of the symptoms for the drinker for a brief period but is detrimental in the long-run.