What is Binge Drinking?
Alcoholic beverage advertisements are always telling us that drinking in moderation is not really dangerous, and is part of most social meetings. You agree with this because although you take part in binge drinking once in a while, you don’t see yourself as an alcoholic. There are days and weeks that you never have any alcoholic drink, but occasionally you hang out with friends and keep on drinking until you nearly pass out. Thus, you only sporadically do binge drinking.
The question you most probably have is whether you have to be concerned. Can binge drinking, even when it is very sporadically, be harmful? Unfortunately, the answer is “yes.” Binge drinking can eventually lead to problems in the short term and long term.
Let’s look at some aspects of binge drinking to determine how it can affect you. And remember, even if binge drinking doesn’t turn you into an alcoholic, your health can still be affected and you can be a danger to yourself and others if you, for instance, drive home after a binge drinking session.
The “Scientific” Definition of Binge Drinking
In simple terms, binge drinking refers to consuming large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time, usually in one session. Research has shown that very few people go into a night with the idea of binge drinking, but many nights that have started as a “just-a-few-drinks-evening” end with binge drinking.
According to a more scientific definition, binge drinking is the consumption of large amounts of alcohol in a period of 2 hours or less, resulting in a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%.
For men, “a large amount of alcohol” to result in a BAC of 0.08% or higher is typically when 5 or more alcoholic drinks have been consumed in less than 2 hours. For women, it normally occurs after drinking 4 or more alcoholic drinks within 2 hours.
The Effects of Binge Drinking
According to The Association for Alcohol Responsibility and Education in South Africa regular drinking, including binge drinking, will have negative impacts on your health:
It is common for people to lose their balance and fall as a result of binge drinking. The high percentage of alcohol in the body affects coordination and balance. If the fall is bad, the result could be ranging from a minor injury to severe injury and in some instances even death.
Your heart can stop because of too much alcohol in your system. This can cause you to choke on your vomit and could also lead to death.
Binge drinking also usually affects your mood and your memory. In the longer term, this can lead to serious mental health problems. Generally, binge drinking leads to anti-social and aggressive behavior and this could have detrimental impacts on your relations with your loved ones and friends.
The Red Signals of Binge Drinking
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), binge drinking can be deadly. Between 2011 and 2015 roughly 95,000 deaths resulted from alcohol misuse in the United States and almost half (46 percent) were associated with binge drinking. If you or somebody you know, are binge drinking you can become part of the statistics!
If you are not sure whether you are actually binge drinking there are a few red signals that can warn you when you are forming a very seriously bad habit.
- You only drink on weekends but then you drink so much that you often get to the point of nearly blacking out.
- Although you set limits for how many drinks you want to have, you never stick to the limits you’ve set.
- You are getting more and more concerned about the amount you’ve been drinking.
- When you have a drink you always have more than one.
- Friends and family tell you that they are concerned about your drinking habits.
Not everyone who takes part in binge drinking has an alcohol abuse problem, but it has been found that binge drinking can increase a person’s risk of developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Tips on How to Prevent Binge Drinking
Binge drinking can harm your health even if you do it only occasionally. If you set the following “rules” for yourself the possibility of binge drinking can be reduced.
- Decide beforehand what will be the limit for the amount of alcohol you are going to consume during the evening or event.
- Keep track of how many drinks you are consuming and stop when you’ve reached your pre-set limit.
- Spread whatever amount of drinks you’ve decided on over a period of more than 2 hours.
- Drink your alcohol drinks slowly and alternate the drinks with water and food.
- Don’t drink alcohol on an empty stomach.
- Don’t drink heavily on 1 or 2 nights – rather spread your drinks out evenly during the week.
Use the “Unit of Alcohol” System to know when you have had Enough
A unit of alcohol is a simple way of estimating the amount of pure alcohol in a drink and one unit is about 10ml pure alcohol. A general rule for responsible drinking would be to consume no more than one unit (10ml) of pure alcohol per hour.
The number of units (pure alcohol) in a drink depends upon its size and strength. An easy way to calculate the number of units in a bottle with an alcoholic drink is to multiply the size of the bottle and the strength of the alcohol and then divide it by 1000. This gives you the number of units in the bottle. If, for example, you are drinking a full 750 ml bottle of wine with a 12% alcohol content you will be drinking 9 units.
If you binge drink the bottle of wine in 2 hours or less you’re consuming far more units than the recommended 2 units in 2 hours.
The rough estimates of the number of units found in popular alcoholic drinks are as follows:
- A standard glass of wine: 2.1 units
- “Draft glass” of low strength beer: 2 units
- “Draft glass” of high strength beer: 3 units
- Bottle of lager: 1.7 units
- Cider: 1.5 units
- Single spirit with mix: 1 unit
What to Do when you Think you have a Problem
If you think you might have a binge drinking problem or you are afraid that you might develop long term problems as a result of your binge drinking, the best is to seek professional help and assistance. Contact an institution like Freeman House Recovery. Their Alcohol Addiction Treatment They will discreetly, confidentially and professionally assist you.