Binge Drinking: Do You Drink Too Much?
Binge drinking on the weekends, at parties, or holidays is a public health issue. We don’t think about how much we are drinking when we are out with friends, having a good time, or celebrating. You can tell yourself that drinking more than usual is okay because you’re at a special event or a party. One more drink doesn’t seem to be wrong, but when one more drink turns into two, three, or more, your well-being is at risk.
What Is Binge Drinking?
The CDC says:
“Binge drinking is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above. This typically happens when men consume five or more drinks or women consume four or more drinks in about 2 hours. Most people who binge drink do not have a severe alcohol use disorder.”
The CDC’s report on binge drinking identifies who binge drinks:
- One in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about seven drinks per binge.
- Binge drinking is most common among younger adults aged 18–34 years, but more than half of the total binge drinks are consumed by those aged 35 and older.
- Binge drinking is twice as common among men than among women.
- Binge drinking is more common among people with household incomes of $75,000 or more and higher educational levels. Binge drinkers with lower incomes and educational levels, however, consume more binge drinks per year.
- Over 90% of U.S. adults who drink excessively report binge drinking in the past 30 days.
- Most people younger than age 21 who drink alcohol report binge drinking, often consuming large amounts.
A Story About Binge Drinking
Matt talks about his binge drinking. “I didn’t think I had a drinking problem. I stuck to drinking on the weekends, holidays, parties, and sporting events. When I was out with friends, I would have one more when pressed. Drinking was a part of my crowd. I always made sure I either didn’t drink or stick to one drink on work nights. I didn’t want to go to work with a hangover.
Hangovers were common the morning after I hung out with friends. One day I woke up, went out to my living room, and saw the empty bottles of beer from the night before. There were a lot—too many. I saw how many bottles I drank and was shocked. I knew this wasn’t uncommon for me when I was with friends. I needed to stop.”
Side Effects of Binge Drinking
Binge drinking takes its toll on your body and mind. There are accidents, illnesses, diseases, brain issues, or other consequences of binge drinking. The CDC lists a few of the repercussions:
- Unintentional injuries such as car crashes, falls, burns, and alcohol poisoning
- Violence including homicide, suicide, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Unintended pregnancy and poor pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage and stillbirth
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
- Sudden infant death syndrome
- Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon
- Memory and learning problems
- Alcohol use disorders
Side Effects on Women
According to the CDC, these a few of the side effects women include:
- Liver disease
- Impact on the brain: Excessive drinking may result in memory loss and shrinkage of the brain. Research suggests that women are more vulnerable than men to the brain damaging effects of excessive alcohol use, and the damage tends to appear with shorter periods of excessive drinking for women than for men.
- Impact on the heart: Studies have shown that women who drink excessively are at increased risk for damage to the heart muscle than men.
- Cancer: Alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast among women. The risk of breast cancer increases as alcohol use increases.
- Sexual assault: Binge drinking is a risk factor for sexual assault, especially among young women in college settings.
Side Effects on Men
An article published by the CDC states that injuries and deaths as a result of excessive alcohol include:
- Men consistently have higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations than women.
- Among drivers in fatal motor-vehicle traffic crashes, men are almost twice as likely as women to have been intoxicated (i.e., a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater).
- Excessive alcohol consumption increases aggression and, as a result, can increase the risk of physically assaulting another person.
- Men are more likely than women to commit suicide, and more likely to have been drinking prior to committing suicide.
- Alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon in men.
- Reproductive Health and Sexual Function: excessive alcohol use can interfere with testicular function and male hormone production resulting in impotence, infertility, and reduction of male secondary sex characteristics such as facial and chest hair.
The Cost of Binge Drinking
Binge drinking hurts more than an individual; it costs our society as well. A study entitled: “2010 national and state costs of excessive alcohol consumption external icon” found:
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.
Binge drinking isn’t harmless. The side effects and consequences can impact your mind and body. Learning how to identify binge drinking is essential.
The holiday season ushers in parties and gatherings. We want to feel part of the group, so we grab a drink. Losing track of how much you drink is easy. One drink leads to a few too many in many situations. You vow the next time you’re out or with friends; you won’t drink as much. Managing your alcohol consumption during the week is effortless. Reading and reviewing the articles about alcoholism proves to you that you aren’t an alcoholic. Binge drinking doesn’t mean you have a severe alcohol problem, but drinking too much can mean you have a drinking problem. Seeking help in identifying and addressing binge drinking is essential to improve your well-being. Serous health, financial, and related side effects are connected to binge drinking. Achieve Medical Center is available 24/7 to answer any questions you have about binge drinking. We can aid you in setting up an appointment to talk to one of our therapists. Call us at (858) 221-0344 to schedule an appointment.