Binge-drinking is a common, yet dangerous form of alcohol consumption that is most popular among college-age adults. The second-largest group of people that report binge-drinking in the United States, however, are over the age of 35. Rates of heavy drinking are also increasing among elderly adults, who are more vulnerable to alcohol’s toxic effects.
People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol at parties or other social gatherings may view a hangover the next day as their only consequence. However, this is not always the case.
On a single occasion but especially over time, excessive drinking can have a major impact on physical, mental, and psychological health. It can also increase someone’s risk for dangerous drunk driving, injury, and be a sign of alcohol abuse and addiction.
If someone has developed an alcohol addiction as a result of their binge-drinking or drinks heavily to sustain their addiction, treatment within an alcohol rehab program may be required to provide the support necessary to help them stop drinking.
What Is Binge-Drinking?
Binge-drinking is a form of heavy drinking that is officially defined as:
- for men: drinking five or more drinks within a two-hour period
- for women: drinking four or more drinks within a two-hour period
This includes the consumption of any type of alcohol, including wine, beer, or hard liquor. Binge-drinking is most common among adults between the ages of 18 and 34 and frequently occurs on college campuses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in six U.S. adults binge drinks four times a month. Even still, nearly 20 percent of those who binge-drink in the U.S. are high schoolers well under the legal drinking age.
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Why Do People Binge-Drink?
The reasons for why people binge-drink can vary based on personal circumstance. In many cases, binge-drinking occurs in social settings, such as parties or raves. In these instances, a person may binge-drink in order to fit in with others who are drinking, to ease social anxiety, or because they are simply curious about the experience of intoxication. Among teenagers, drinking is commonly engaged in as an act of rebellion.
According to the CDC, most people who binge-drink are not dependent on alcohol. However, this doesn’t mean that binge-drinking cannot lead to, or be a symptom of a serious problem.
Reasons for binge-drinking that may indicate a drinking problem include:
- drinking to numb or distract from negative emotions or experiences
- drinking to self-medicate
- drinking to get dangerously drunk
- strong alcohol cravings
Frequent instances of binge-drinking can lead to serious physical consequences, and it can also be harmful to a person’s mental health. Many people who abuse alcohol also struggle with depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder. Although alcohol may initially serve as a way to cope with these struggles, over time it can make them worse.
Using alcohol to distract from personal issues is not a sustainable coping tool or solution. Over time, and even in the short-term, excessive drinking can pose serious dangers.
Short Term Physical And Mental Effects Of Binge-Drinking
Drinking heavy amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time can lead to dangerous levels of intoxication, and have physical, mental, and psychological effects.
Short-Term Physical Effects Of Binge-Drinking
Alcohol is a substance that depresses the central nervous system (CNS), a system in the body comprised of the brain and spinal cord. This can lead to a whole host of physical effects that are even more pronounced after drinking heavy amounts of alcohol.
Physical effects of binge-drinking can include:
- lack of coordination
- low blood sugar
- high blood pressure
- irregular heartbeats
- inhibited gag reflex
Binge-drinking is also a risk factor for alcohol poisoning. This can be serious and potentially life-threatening if left untreated.
If someone you know is experiencing the following symptoms of alcohol poisoning after binge-drinking, call 9-1-1 right away:
- unusually slow breathing
- loss of consciousness
Mental And Psychological Effects Of Binge-Drinking
The brain, as well as the body, can suffer several short-term effects after drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Heavy drinking can make it harder to focus and make a person more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as unsafe sex or criminal activity.
Mental and psychological effects of binge-drinking can include:
- impaired judgment
- increased appetite
- lowered inhibition
- memory blackouts
Increased Risk For Accidents And Injury
One of the most overlooked dangers of binge-drinking is the likelihood of it leading to serious accidents, injuries, and even suicide as a result of its mental and physical effects. Research on alcohol-related fatalities reports that over half of these deaths related to alcohol occur as a result of binge-drinking.
Dangerous risks of binge-drinking include:
- drunk driving fatalities
- domestic violence
- sexual assault
- unintentional pregnancies
Long-Term Effects And Risks Of Binge-Drinking
Although there are many short-term effects and dangers posed by binge-drinking, other personal, social, and health problems may also develop over time as a result of this excessive drinking. The more frequently a person binge-drinks, the more likely they are to experience these effects.
Long-term effects and health risks linked to binge-drinking include:
- high blood pressure (hypertension)
- heart disease
- liver disease
- various cancers (e.g. mouth cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, throat cancer, etc)
- weakened immune system
- memory and learning problems
- sexually transmitted diseases (due to unsafe sex while intoxicated)
- nerve damage
- poor work performance
- inability to stay in school or keep a job
Frequent binge-drinking can also increase a person’s tolerance to alcohol and cause dependence in the body. Alcohol dependence can make it difficult for a person to reduce or stop their drinking. People who become dependent on alcohol are at greater risk for addiction and may experience withdrawal symptoms within 12 hours of their last drink.
Alcohol abuse and addiction can be influenced by several factors, including genetics, environment, biological factors, and other mental health struggles. People who binge-drink to self-medicate may be even more vulnerable to developing a problem with alcohol.
If you or someone you know is binge-drinking often and continues to do so despite negative health or personal consequences, this can be a sign that they need professional treatment.
Treatment For Alcohol Abuse And Addiction
At The Treehouse, our treatment specialists recognize binge-drinking as what it can often be: a sign of a larger problem. Although most people who binge-drink are not expected to develop a serious alcohol problem, many still struggle in silence due to shame, addiction, or other personal reasons preventing them from seeking help.
Facing a drinking problem can be difficult, especially as a young adult. At The Treehouse, we offer a wide array of treatment services that are capable of helping people of all ages work through their substance abuse problems within a safe and supportive environment.
At The Treehouse, our core treatment modalities for alcohol abuse include:
- medically supervised detox
- dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
- cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- group therapy
- mindfulness and stress management
- motivational interviewing
- family and couples therapy
- adventure therapy
- wilderness therapy
If you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol problem, don’t wait to seek professional support. Contact The Treehouse today for more information about our alcohol detox and rehab programs.