According to NSDUH 2020, 51 million people in the US reported alcohol use in the past month. Of these, over 26 million also reported past-month binge drinking.
Binge drinking is not only damaging short-term, but it can also lead to a host of long-term health problems.
What Is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking involves consuming alcohol rapidly and systematically to get intoxicated as quickly as possible.
This dangerous pattern of extreme alcohol consumption is deemed by the CDC to be “a serious but preventable public health problem.”
What Is Binge Drinking, Then?
Well, NIAAA (the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) characterizes binge drinking as occurring when you raise your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) above the legal limit of 0.08 grams/percent.
The Following Are Instances of Binge Drinking:
- When a man consumes five or more standard drinks within 2 hours.
- When a woman consumes four or more standard drinks within 2 hours.
Much research suggests that many people binge drinking consume seven or more drinks during the session. From parties and college campuses to work events and weddings, binge drinking happens just about everywhere.
One 2010 study estimated the annual cost of binge drinking at almost $250 billion. This accounts for alcohol-related absences, healthcare expenditure, and reduced workplace productivity.
While most people who binge drink are not alcohol-dependent, 90% of heavy drinkers also report binge drinking in the previous month.
Who Is at Most Risk of Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking in the United States is most prevalent among the under-30s.
It’s also a concern among underage drinkers. The bulk of under-21s who report drinking alcohol also admit to binge drinking. As many as 6 in 10 college students who drink alcohol also report binge drinking.
Interestingly, while 75% of instances of binge drinking involve the under-30s, more than 50% of all binge drinks consumed are by over-35s, according to a 2015 study.
Men are twice as likely to engage in binge drinking as women, with men consuming 80% of all binge drinks.
Binge drinking affects different demographics in different ways. Households with incomes of $75,000+ and higher educational levels binge drink more frequently. Households with lower incomes and lower educational levels consumed more binge drinks.
So, it’s clear that binge drinking impacts a wide cross-section of society, but is it really that harmful? What are the Short-Term Effects of Binge Drinking?
Most people associate binge drinking with a laundry list of negative short-term effects. This is true for both occasional binge drinkers and habitual binge drinkers. An estimated 50% of alcohol-related deaths are due to intoxication that occurs in a truncated timeframe, so-called acute intoxication.
Some of the More Common Short-term Effects Triggered by Binge Drinking Episodes Include:
- Acute inflammation of the stomach, liver, and pancreas
- Distorted vision
- Engaging in reckless behaviors
- Heightened risk of STIs
- High blood pressure
- Impaired judgment
- Increased chance of injury and death
- Inflammation of the lungs
- Irregular heartbeat
- Low levels of key electrolytes
- Lung infections
- Slurred speech
Binge drinking can also result in alcohol poisoning. This can be fatal if it’s not treated properly and promptly.
Beyond the above physical and mental side effects, binge drinking also tends to impact your life at home and work.
The bad news is, it’s not only short-term damage that binge drinking inflicts.
Is Binge Drinking Damaging Long-term?
The more frequently you engage in binge drinking sessions, the greater your chance of developing long-term problems as a result. These long-term effects of binge drinking include:
- Alcohol dependence
- Alcohol use disorder
- Chronic high blood pressure
- Compromised immune system
- Impaired balance and coordination
- Increased risk of some cancers
- Liver disease
- Mental health conditions
- Nerve damage
- Reduced fertility
So, you may think that because you only occasionally binge drink, you don’t have a problem with alcohol. That may be true, but any habitual pattern of binge drinking will likely trigger more serious consequences over time.
Arrest any problematic patterns before you develop alcohol use disorder, a chronic and relapsing condition requiring ongoing treatment.
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