Binge Drinking: When Too Much Is Not Enough
Binge drinking occurs when an individual consumes too much alcohol over a short period of time and it can last from a few hours, days or weeks. Binge drinking is commonly associated with about one-third of male adolescents and young adults in the U.S. and 6% of these individuals will develop an alcohol addiction or an alcohol-related use disorder. Heavy drinking is dangerous and can cause many physical and psychological problems. Systems of the body that are adversely affected by binge drinking are the cardiac, gastrointestinal, hemotologic, immune, neurologic and musculoskeletal. Over-drinking may also cause psychiatric disorders to develop.
What are the Risks?
Besides causing physical and mental problems, binge drinking is also associated with traffic accidents, injuries, violent behavior and suicide. Permanent brain damage develops more quickly in an individual who binge drinks because the excessive amount of alcohol in the brain kills off brain cells. As the pattern of binge drinking is repeated, more brain cells are destroyed. Adolescent and young adult brains are more susceptible to the neurotoxic effects of binge drinking on the brain. Evidence shows that brain damage occurs when an adolescent drinks about 20 drinks in one month. When adolescents continue with a pattern of excessive drinking, they run the risk of developing an alcohol-use disorder and liver disease. Feeling more grown up and fitting-in better with their peers are reasons why an adolescent may begin binge drinking. Other reasons cited by the youth themselves are: alleviating stress and anxiety, forgetting their problems, feeling happy and more relaxed, feeling more sociable and because it’s fun.
How is Binge Drinking Defined?
Binge drinking in adults is defined as 5 or more drinks every 2 hours for men, and 4 or more drinks every 2 hours for women, with the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) reaching 0.08 percent or above. In the U.S. overall binge drinking has risen 17.2 % during the years 2005 to 2012. Statistics show that binge drinking is on the rise in women and is believed to be because social norms have changed so much more for women. In some areas of the country binge drinking seems to be associated more with affluent, young people and also those who work in high-stress jobs and drink to unwind and escape at the end of a workday. For people in the lower economic classes, binge drinking seems to be used as an escape from economic and other problems.
Alcohol is a part of most people’s culture and they will usually drink to socialize, celebrate or unwind. But drinking too much alcohol is dangerous and can have serious consequences. To avoid taking risks obey the rules of safe standard drinking. One standard drink contains about 6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol. A 12 fl. oz. bottle of beer contains about 5% alcohol. Malt liquor up to 8 fl. oz. contains 7% alcohol. Five fluid ounces of table wine contains 12 % alcohol and 80-proof distilled spirits contains 40% alcohol. Stay within the safe drinking limits: for men it is less than 4 drinks per day and no more than 14 drinks per week. For women, the safe limit is less than 3 drinks per day and no more than 7 drinks per week. Also, remember to sip your drink, don’t drink too fast and drink water in between drinks.
The sad fact remains that too much drinking comes with a high cost and not enough is being done to stop or prevent it. Alcohol use disorder causes a wide array of medical, psychiatric, social, legal, occupational, economic and family problems. An alcoholic parent is usually the underlying factor of many family problems including divorce, spousal and child abuse, neglect, and dependence on public assistance and criminal behavior. Most alcoholics remain untreated because they lie and hide the truth about their drinking problem. Most often, the family will lie and cover-up for the alcoholic as well. When confronted about their drinking, most alcoholics will deny using excessive amounts of alcohol. Regardless of an alcoholic’s defense, there are signs and symptoms that will reveal a drinking problem.
Signs of Addiction
Some of the signs of an alcohol-use disorder include insomnia, frequent falls, passing out, injuries and bruises, anxiety, depression, irritability, blackouts, loss of employment, absence from school or work, weight loss, financial difficulties, divorce, smelling of liquor, appearing or behaving intoxicated and frequent auto accidents. Symptoms of intoxication are lack of muscle control, slurred speech, confusion, impairment of judgment and coordination, reduced inhibitions and memory or concentration problems. Medical problems associated with chronic alcohol use are numerous. These include anemia, liver disease, pancreatitis, gastritis, neuropathy, heart, disease, brain degeneration and atrophy, dementia, seizures, confusion, malnutrition, stomach ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding and hallucinations.
Medical issues from alcohol abuse can also include psychiatric problems. Things to be aware of include violent behavior, anxiety disorder, compulsive and risky behavior, mood swings, psychological disorders, depression, fear, guilt, shame, loneliness and suicidal thoughts and actions.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.