People binge drink for many different reasons. Some people drink to celebrate with friends or family. Others drink because of heartbreak, loss, pain, or loneliness. No matter the reason for drinking so much in so little time, the dangers of binge drinking remain the same.
What Does it Actually Mean to Binge Drink?
Binge drinking is considered consuming five drinks in two hours or less for men, or four drinks in two hours or less for women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC). This pattern of drinking will bring the person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to 0.08% or above, which is above the legal level of intoxication in most states. Yet, most people who binge drink do not fit the clinical diagnosis of a serious alcohol use disorder (AUD), formerly known as alcoholism. People who binge drink are more likely to be people who consume large quantities of alcohol at one time, but not necessarily as consistently or uncontrollably. However, binge drinking can lead to more serious alcohol use disorders.
Isn’t Binge Drinking Something People Only Do in College?
According to the CDC, binge drinking is not just for college-aged people. While the ages from high school through the age of 34 have the highest levels of binge drinking per capita, more than half of the drinks consumed by binging are consumed by people over the age of 35.
The statistics on binge drinking are sobering:
- Binge drinking is most common among people who make $75,000 per year and have higher educational levels
- Binge drinking is twice as common among men than among women
- 1 in 6 adults binge drinks about 4 times per month, consuming an average of 7 drinks per binge
- Over 90% of adults who report excessive drinking also report binge drinking within the past 30 days
If Alcohol is Legal, Then Can’t People Drink As Much as They Want?
Far too often, people confuse “legal” with “healthy” or “responsible”. Almost anything that is legal to consume can cause harm or even fatality to a person if not consumed in moderation or within suggested quantities. Due to both the short and long-term health risks of drinking alcohol, the CDC recommends less than one drink per day for women and less than two drinks per day for men, depending on body type and weight. They also recommend that some people should not drink at all, including:
- Those under the legal drinking age
- Women who may be pregnant or breastfeeding
- Those with medical conditions or taking medications contraindicated with drinking alcohol
- Those with AUD or other conditions which prevent them from controlling their drinking
Why Don’t People Take Binge Drinking Seriously?
As much as there is a stigma against chronic alcohol consumption, there are many cultural beliefs that it is okay to binge drink once in a while, at least in certain situations such as parties or while nursing a broken heart. The concerns about alcohol consumption tend to focus more on the overt consequences rather than using alcohol or other substances responsibly. If a person seems to “have control” of their drinking or are able to convince others they can “stop anytime” or it was “just one weekend,” then there is less notice of how much alcohol is actually being consumed.
Are There Other Consequences Besides a Hangover?
There are so many health risks associated with binge drinking. The concept that “just having a few drinks” or “cutting loose” every once in a while is okay is a very dangerous belief. While there are many health risks associated with consistent alcohol consumption, there are some risks that are also directly linked with binge drinking. These risks can include:
- Increased violence such as suicide, homicide, domestic violence, and sexual assault
- Sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancies
- Harm or death to an unborn fetus
- Increased risk for accidental injuries or fatalities
- Chronic heart and liver diseases
- Certain types of cancers
- AUD or other addictive behaviors
Additionally, there are specific short and long-term risks to the brain that are associated with binge drinking. These risks are much higher for those under the age of 25.
Can Binge Drinking Actually Kill You?
Many people are unaware that death by alcohol poisoning is a possibility when they begin consuming alcohol in large quantities. In addition to the increased health risks listed above, approximately 2,200 people die of an alcohol overdose in the United States each year. More alcohol consumed in a short amount of time increases the risk of fatality. Those risks increase exponentially when there are prescription or illicit drugs or certain health risks already present.
Whether or not binge drinking is considered acceptable in your familial or cultural circles, there are a lot of risks involved. Drinking too much alcohol in such a short time does more than put you at risk for an accident or even some type of violence. There are short and long-term health risks, including alcohol overdose. While many who do not have a severe AUD commonly binge drink, binge drinking can lead to an AUD, so it is not a good habit to create. At Rancho Milagro Recovery, we treat alcoholism and other addictions. We know that what started as partying with friends or weekend drinking after a loss can easily turn to an AUD. Our staff here are in recovery as well, and we know what it takes to heal. Our Temecula, California ranch is accessible and yet remote enough to clear your head and heal your soul. Call us to find out more at (951) 526-4582 today.