Though often touted as a college rite-of-passage, binge drinking is the most common, costly, and sometimes fatal form of excessive alcohol use in the United States. When the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) was published, 65.8 million people had partaken in binge drinking in the previous month. This includes 1.2 million adolescents aged 12 to 17. Binge drinking is a serious and widespread public health problem, but fortunately, it is largely preventable.
What’s Binge Drinking and Who Does It?
Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that brings your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above. This generally translates into consuming five or more drinks (for men) or four or more drinks (for women) within a two-hour time frame. People who binge drink are not necessarily those with a severe, chronic alcohol use disorder. Binge drinking, by definition, is a matter of intensity and quantity, not frequency.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- About four times a month, one in six adults in the U.S. binge drinks and consumes roughly seven drinks per binge. This equals to 17 billion total binge drinks consumed by adults annually.
- Binge drinking is common among 18–34 years olds, but more than half of the total binge drinks are consumed by people aged 35 and older.
- Men are twice as likely to binge drink as women are. Four out of five binge drinks are consumed by males.
- People with household incomes ≥ $75,000 and higher educational levels binge drink more frequently, though binge drinkers with lower incomes and less education consume a larger number of binge drinks per year.
Short-term Effects of Binge Drinking on Your Body
You can feel the physical effects of alcohol within five to 10 minutes of having a drink. About 90% of the alcohol in your blood is broken down by the liver. In the average person, the liver can only break down about one standard drink per hour. If you drink more alcohol than what your liver can process, your blood alcohol content increases. This poses serious risks for your body, both directly through biological and chemical means, and indirectly through impaired reflexes, coordination, judgment, and executive functioning.
“It’s estimated that about half of all alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. are related to acute intoxication,” stated Dr. Timothy Naimi, professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, in a Mayo Clinic study, “and most of the economic costs are also related to binge drinking.”
Immediate dangers posed by binge drinking include:
- Death from acute alcohol poisoning
- Depressing the gag reflex, which can cause a person to choke on their vomit
- Unintentional injuries from:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Violent incidents such as:
- Suicide and attempted suicide
- Intimate partner violence
- Sexual assault and rape
- Child abuse
A single night of binge drinking can also result in:
- High blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, or sudden death from heart failure
- Kidney damage from dehydration
- Infection from vomit or saliva entering the lungs
- Dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), affecting the pancreas
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies from unprotected sex
Long-term Effects of Binge Drinking on Your Body
- Pregnancy complications, miscarriages, and stillbirths
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
- Chronic diseases such as:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, or rectum
- Memory and learning impairment
- Alcohol use disorders
How Binge Drinking Affects Your Home and Work-Life
It’s not surprising that, given the toll that it takes on your body and brain, binge drinking can quickly lead to severe changes in your health that can, in turn, impact your personal relationships, work status, finances, and quality of life. Physical and cognitive impairment can lead to domestic violence, affect your ability to communicate with your partner, care for your children and provide a safe, stable living environment.
This same impairment can affect how you are able to function at work. Depending on your professional role and duties, you may even place colleagues and clients in harm’s way, whether physically or financially. Even young adults can jeopardize their futures by binge drinking. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology reported that “A student who binge-drinks four times a month has a 6 percent lower probability of finding a job than a student who does not engage in similar drinking habits. Those students who drank heavily six times a month increased their unemployment probability to 10 percent.”
Binge drinking is one of the deadliest drinking patterns among adults in the U.S. It has short- and long-term health repercussions for your body. Binge drinking can impact your personal and professional relationships, and lead to unintended behaviors with devastating consequences that cannot be undone. If you are binge drinking and want to stop, contact Authentic Recovery Center (ARC) today. Located in Los Angeles, California, we offer an interdisciplinary therapeutic drug and alcohol rehab with the highest level of care possible. We will tailor your treatment to your needs and maintain the utmost confidentiality during your stay with us. ARC offers the advanced clinical techniques necessary for treating both substance use disorders and co-occurring conditions, emphasizing evidence-based drug and alcohol treatment methods. Even after you leave us, rest assured that you will still receive the support and aftercare you need to continue your healing journey. Call us today at (866) 786-1376.