We’ve all heard the drunken stories; friends recanting that party weekend where someone lost their pants or woke up with a tattoo. These stories may be funny to the audience, but is the lasting trauma of public humiliation, or the physical consequences of binge drinking really all that funny? What are the real social and health risks of binge drinking?
The not-so-funny stories include accidental and intentional violence, car accidents, alcohol poisoning, social embarrassment and long-term brain damage.
What does “binge drinking disorder” look like?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking is characterized as drinking 5 or more drinks on an occasion for men or 4 or more drinks on an occasion for women.
That may not sound like much. In fact, when I first heard this guideline I couldn’t imagine anyone not having 4 or more drinks at a social event. The truth is, most people don’t drink at high-risk levels.
In a survey of 43,000 people over age 18, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that 7 out of 10 adults drink at low-risk levels, or not at all.
According to national surveys, the CDC reports:
- One in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about eight drinks per binge.
- While binge drinking is more common among young adults aged 18–34 years, binge drinkers aged 65 years and older report binge drinking more often—an average of five to six times a month.
- Binge drinking is more common among those with household incomes of $75,000 or more than among those with lower incomes.
- Approximately 92% of U.S. adults who drink excessively report binge drinking in the past 30 days.
- Although college students commonly binge drink, 70% of binge drinking episodes involve adults age 26 years and older.
- The prevalence of binge drinking among men is twice the prevalence among women.
What are the dangers associated with binge drinking disorder?
The risks of binge drinking include a wide range of social, physical and mental consequences. Drinking reduces inhibitions, increases confidence and suppresses the ability to think rationally. Misuse of alcohol can cause hangovers, leading to loss of productivity at work. In addition, irrational behavior caused by alcohol abuse can lead to the destruction of relationships. Long-term binge drinking can cause serious health problems and possibly even death.
There are numerous problems that can ensue immediately due to binge drinking disorder, including:
- Risk of STD’s or unwanted pregnancy – Loss of inhibitions can lead to sexual encounters resulting in a plethora of consequences.
- Blackouts – Binge drinking can lead to “blackouts” where the drinker has no memory of parts, or all of the time period they were intoxicated. Blackouts can cause serious brain damage.
- Embarrassment – When enough alcohol is consumed the ability to think clearly dissipates and the drinker may do things they regret the next day. Many times the behavior that leads to the regret was done in a blackout.
- Injury or possible death – Coordination is compromised while under the influence of alcohol. According to the CDC, emergency room visits due to alcohol related injuries increased by 38% from 2002 – 2010 alone, and alcohol accounted for one third of all traffic related deaths in 2014.
There are also long-term health risks associated with binge drinking. Some of them include:
- Permanent brain damage
- Liver disease
- Heart attack or high blood pressure
- Gastrointestinal problems
Studies have shown that approximately one third of adults will abuse alcohol at one time or another in their life. Although it’s not always the case, binge drinking can be a precursor to alcoholism. According to the NIAAA, nearly one third of adults will struggle with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) at some time in their lives, but only 20 percent will seek treatment.
There is a stigma attached to alcohol use disorder in America, and it’s not always easy to see when the line is crossed from recreational drinking to binge drinking, or alcoholism.
Riviera Recovery Can Help with Binge Drinking Disorder
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