What are the Effects of Binge Drinking?
According to the CDC, “Binge drinking is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States.” For many reasons, individuals who participate in binge drinking often do not consider it to be as dangerous as other types of alcohol abuse or misuse. On the contrary, binge drinking has many effects, nearly all of which are dangerous and harmful to the individual (and even possibly to others). It is important to understand the effects of binge drinking, even if your participation in this behavior is seldom.
Binge Drinking Defined
It is also necessary to understand what defines binge drinking for any given individual. As stated by the CDC, binge drinking is defined “as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks, and when women consume 4 or more drinks, in about 2 hours.”
Understanding what constitutes binge drinking can help you avoid it. But it is also necessary to know that the effects of this behavior are dangerous, and many of them can occur no matter how often or rarely you participate in it.
Effects of Binge Drinking
Binge drinking has many effects that may occur even if an individual only participates in the behavior once. However, like other kinds of dangerous behavior associated with substance abuse, the more you engage in this activity, the more likely dangerous effects will be to occur. Below are some of the most common effects associated with binge drinking.
- Injuries: According to the NHS, binge drinking “can increase your immediate risk of being in an accident.” A shocking number of car accidents, falls, and burns are all direct results of binge drinking episodes. In addition, a person is more likely to die from an injury like those above or from others like drowning if they are extremely inebriated.
- Attacks: Injuries also occur as the result of attack when a person has been binge drinking. Many others see the individual as an easy target for muggings, sexual assault, and other types of attack. This can lead to injuries and even death as well.
- Violence: Participating in this behavior can also cause the individual to become more violent or hostile themselves, which could lead to injury of another as well as of the individual. These violent outbursts can also cause the inebriated individual to receive legal reprimands for their actions, actions which they likely would not have taken if they had been sober.
- Poor judgment: Drinking too much can cause an individual to exhibit extremely poor judgment and be likely to do other things they would not normally do. This may include getting behind the wheel when unfit to drive, deciding to go somewhere or do something that is potentially harmful, or participating in unsafe activities. In particular, binge drinking is often the cause of unsafe sexual practices such as having unprotected sex, having sex with an unknown partner, or having sex with multiple partners. As a result, a person could contract a sexually transmitted disease, or their actions may result in an unwanted pregnancy.
- Alcohol poisoning: Binge drinking is likely to end in alcohol poisoning if the individual has no one looking out for them, and it only takes one time abusing the substance at this level to experience it. The symptoms of alcohol poisoning include confusion, pale, clammy skin, blue fingernails, lips, or mouth, unconsciousness, coma, lowered body temperature, slowed or stopped breathing, vomiting, and possibly seizures. If a person experiences alcohol poisoning, they need to be brought to the hospital immediately or they may die.
- Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS): If a pregnant individual binge drinks even one time, FAS can result, causing the child to be born with issues like “heart defects,” facial deformities, growth problems, “decreased muscle tone,” and problems with development, cognitive processes, and social skills (NLM).
- Brain damage: Brain damage can occur as the result of binge drinking. According to the NIAAA, “People who have been drinking large amounts of alcohol for long periods of time run the risk of developing serious and persistent changes in the brain.” In addition, a person who abuses alcohol in a very large quantity even once could receive permanent brain damage as a result of alcohol poisoning and the lack of oxygen going to the brain.
- Liver problems: Liver disease, cirrhosis, and cancer of the liver can all occur in those individuals who drink large amounts of alcohol consistently over a long period of time. Binge drinking wreaks havoc on an individual’s liver, and the more it is done, the more affected the organ will become.
- Heart problems: Just like when alcohol is abused in general over a long period of time, binge drinking can cause heart problems. According to the CDC, “high blood pressure, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases” may all occur as the result of abusing alcohol in this way.
- Sexual dysfunction: It may become difficult for someone to perform sexually, either as the result of a recent binge episode or continuous abuse of alcohol at high levels. The ability for an individual to reproduce can also be affected by these actions.
- Alcoholism: Over time, a person may notice themselves needing to drink more and more to feel the same effects or craving alcohol after they have binged on it over and over. These effects begin to occur with the development of alcoholism, of which regular binge drinking episodes can be the cause. Eventually, the individual may find themselves abusing more of the substance than they want to, but they will not know how to stop. And, even if they do attempt to stop, they will likely experience severe withdrawal symptoms that may even become deadly.
The effects of binge drinking are just as dangerous (or perhaps even more so) than those associated with regular alcohol misuse and abuse. It is important to remember that, while an occasional binge drinking episode does not seem harmful, it has the potential to cause many possible effects, most of which are negative to the same extent as those caused by everyday substance abuse.