Binge drinking is defined as consuming an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, binge drinking is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. It typically qualifies as having four to five or more alcoholic beverages in a two-hour period. These people are not alcohol dependent, however they consume enough alcohol in a sitting to raise the BAC to above 0.08. Binge drinking is not to be confused with alcohol use disorder (AUD). Although, it increases the risk of developing an alcohol abuse problem as going from binge drinking to alcoholism can happen both easily and quickly.
Common Reasons for Binge Drinking
Despite the negative consequences that come from binge drinking, many people have the same or similar thought process when they partake in such an activity. Knowing why someone might binge drink could help them or peers prevent it in the future.
- To avoid or forget about problems
- Drinking games
- Rebelling against someone opposed to them drinking more
Binge drinking becomes an easy way to abuse alcohol since drinking is seen as a normal socializing pastime. This can become an addiction quickly that is not only expensive financially but takes its toll physically, emotionally, and mentally. Drinking excessively can cause harm when abusers get behind the wheel thinking they are sober enough to drive. It also makes those more vulnerable to violence or sexual assault.
Risks of Binge Drinking
Binge drinking is associated with many health problems,7–9 including the following:
- Injuries (car crashes, falls, burns, and alcohol poisoning)
- Domestic violence or sexual assault.
- Avoidance of proper sexual protection
- Unintended pregnancy
- Poor pregnancy outcomes (miscarriage and stillbirth)
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
- Sudden infant death syndrome.
- Health risks and fatal diseases
- High blood pressure
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
- Memory and learning problems.
- Alcohol dependence
Recognizing Binge Drinking
As with any night out where a person drinks too much, the aftermath of drunken behavior can be embarrassing at the least and detrimental at worst. People take on different personalities after drinking too much and all it takes is one big drunken mistake to cause a lifetime of paying the price. Drinking also causes guilt and regret the morning after as alcohol is a depressant. Combine this with memory loss or blacking out during a binge, and chaos is bound to ensue. Since alcohol effectively lowers a person’s inhibitions, those who have gotten sufficiently drunk are much more likely to take risks without weighing the costs. This could be as harmless and embarrassing as revealing a secret or confession but as damaging as telling off a coworker or boss. Not to mention the added risks that come from attempting to perform physical stunts or operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Overall quality of life is affected by binge drinking as well even when the user is sober. Binge drinkers often drink regularly, not daily. This causes sluggishness, hangovers, less motivation to exercise, and a general moodiness during sobriety.
Ways to Prevent a Binge
A common problem with binge drinkers is their inability to stick to the limits they set for themselves. Not all hope is lost though. According to Peter Hendricks, the lead researcher from the University of Alabama at Birmingham study, there are many ways to prevent some of the dangers that stem from excessive drinking. Be sure to drink water between each drink. Not only will this keep you hydrated and prevent a hangover but it forces you to slow down on drinking the alcoholic beverages. Eat a large meal before drinking. Arrange a ride home before the evening even begins and stick close to your friends. Keep your eyes on your drink at all times and avoid chugging or doing shots. Finally, under no circumstances should you mix alcohol with any other substance. This not only increases changes of danger and harm, but certain substances can be lethal when mixed with alcohol.
Binge Drinking Statistics
There are some rather alarming statistics that exist surrounding the issue that is binge drinking. For example, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention stated that “drinking too much, including binge drinking, cost the United States $249 billion in 2010, or $2.05 a drink. These costs resulted from losses in workplace productivity, health care expenditures, criminal justice costs, and other expenses. Binge drinking was responsible for 77% of these costs, or $191 billion.”
Ways Binge Drinking Can Be Stopped
It seems that the unanimous approach to end binge drinking stems more from prevention than it does from treatment. There are many rules and regulations that could be put into place or more strictly enforced in order to prevent or end binge drinking. For example, there could be an increase in alcohol taxes, a limit to places that sell alcohol in a specific area, accountability, and restricting access of alcoholic retail sales. Binge drinking is not necessarily an alcohol dependency but rather a misuse of alcohol. If you or someone you know is a binge drinker, try to take care of it before it turns into alcoholism or a big mistake. Too much of anything is a bad thing, especially when it comes to alcohol.