Mar 3, 2024

The Dangers of Binge Drinking

Having a drink or two on occasion isn’t seen as an issue for most people who don’t have a history of alcohol use disorder. Unfortunately for some, those one or two drinks can easily escalate into a heavy drinking episode. This is referred to as binge drinking. Binge drinking causes more than a hangover the next day. It can lead to serious and dangerous outcomes. 

What Is Binge Drinking?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a heavy drinking session that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration to .08% or higher. This generally happens when a male consumes five or more drinks in a two-hour period, or a female consumes four or more drinks in a two-hour period

Binge drinking is something that many people have done. They might not realize it because society refers to it as “having a few too many,” “getting drunk and having fun,” or “tying one on.” 

Binge drinking is something that may happen only on occasion, or it may be more of a habitual occurrence. It’s estimated that one in six adults in the United States binge drinks. A quarter of the adult population indulges in heavy drinking weekly.

There’s also something called high-intensity binge drinking. This is defined by doubling the binge drinking threshold in two hours. High-intensity binge drinking is something that is frequently seen at college bars and parties and tends to peak around this stage of life. 

Effects and Dangers of Binge Drinking 

This type of drinking is a dangerous activity. It doesn’t discriminate between those who drink heavily occasionally and those whose binge drinking and alcoholism go hand in hand. 

Binge drinking comes with both immediate and long-term dangers. It’s suggested that binge drinking is responsible for half of all alcohol-related deaths that occur each year.

The immediate, short-term dangers of binge drinking are often underestimated. The more alcohol an individual consumes, the less likely they are to be capable of assessing these dangers. 

Short-term dangers of binge drinking can include:

  • Poor motor control and slower reaction that can lead to accidents
  • Encourage risky behavior that may affect a person’s health and safety
  • Put a person in a position to be more at risk of sexual and physical assault
  • Hostility, aggression, and unusual personality or mood shifts
  • Intense sleepiness
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Dangerously low blood pressure 
  • Alcohol poisoning 

Long-term dangers of binge drinking can include:

  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Mental health issues
  • Inhibited brain development in adolescents and young adults
  • Weight gain
  • Hypertension 
  • Heart disease 
  • Stroke 
  • Decline in cognitive health
  • Liver disease, including cirrhosis
  • Cancer of the liver, stomach, colon, throat, esophagus, and breast 
  • The increased risk of mortality due to alcohol-related accidents and alcohol poisoning

Understanding Alcohol Poisoning 

Alcohol poisoning is a serious condition that happens when a person drinks alcohol at a rate and volume that exceeds what their body is capable of processing, as is the case with binge drinking. Alcohol poisoning is serious and potentially fatal. It is something that requires immediate medical intervention. 

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

  • Slurring words or not being able to speak
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Vomiting 
  • Loss of motor skill coordination (walking, standing, following simple instructions, etc.)
  • Urinating or defecating without making it to the bathroom
  • Slowed/irregular breathing
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome if binge drinking while pregnant
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizure 
  • Discolored skin that has a blue or purplish tinge 
  • Unresponsiveness 

If you’re with someone who has suspected alcohol poisoning from binge drinking, take action to get them the proper medical attention as soon as possible. Don’t leave them, thinking they’ll be fine because they are just sleeping. If possible, get them into a seated position and gently help them wake up or become responsive. Provide water if they’re able to drink it. 

Classic binge drinking “cures” such as cold showers, encouraging vomiting, or giving them coffee should be avoided, as each of these can increase risks to the person’s health. 

Getting Help for Binge Drinking and Alcoholism 

Binge drinking is never a safe or healthy thing to do. It’s important to recognize when repeated binge drinking is a sign of alcoholism or alcohol use disorder. If you’re finding that you or a loved one is regularly engaging in heavy drinking, experiencing cravings, and that the desire for alcohol is affecting your life, it’s time for help. 

Massachusetts Center for Addiction is only a phone call away, and we can help you take the first steps to recovery from alcoholism and alcohol use disorder. Call us today at 844-486-0671.

MCA Staff
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