Binge drinking is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of alcohol consumption in the United States. In addition to causing unintentional injuries, falls, and car accidents, binge drinking can increase your risk of developing sexually transmitted diseases, high blood pressure, heart and liver disease, memory and learning problems, and cancer. Despite these risks, 1 in 6 American adults binge drinks 4 times a month, consuming an average of 7 drinks per binge. Unfortunately, drinking this much this frequently can lead to alcohol addiction.
What Is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is a pattern of heavy alcohol consumption that can lead to serious short- and long-term health consequences. Binge drinking is a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams or above. This typically happens when men consume five or more drinks or when women consume four or more drinks in the span of two hours. This level of drinking can quickly lead to intoxication, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. For example, binge drinking individuals are more likely to make poor decisions, such as driving while under the influence or engaging in risky sexual behavior. In the long run, binge drinking can lead to liver damage, heart disease, and other chronic health problems. It can also increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer.
Quick Facts About Binge Drinking
According to a large-scale study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heavy drinking is most common among young adults. The study found that binge drinking was most prevalent among people aged 18 to 34, with 26% of men and 17% of women in this age group reporting heavy drinking in the past month. This is not surprising, as young adults are more likely to engage in risky behaviors than older adults. However, the CDC study also found that binge drinking is relatively common among middle-aged adults. In fact, 11% of men and 5% of women aged 35 to 44 reported heavy drinking in the past month. This suggests that binge drinking is not just a phase that people outgrow; it is a behavior that can persist throughout adulthood.
Dangers Associated With Binge Drinking
- Injuries. Heavy drinking can impair your senses and negatively affect your balance, which can increase your risk of falling. Impaired senses can also make you more susceptible to motor-vehicle crashes, drowning, burns, and other accidental injuries that you could easily avoid when sober.
- Alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning can be a severe and sometimes deadly consequence of drinking large amounts in a short time. Symptoms can include slurred speech, poor coordination, irregular breathing, seizures, blue-tinged or pale skin, low body temperature, and unconsciousness.
- Dehydration. As a diuretic, alcohol causes the kidneys to produce more urine. Losing large amounts of water can lead to dehydration and dangerously low sodium and potassium levels. Dehydration can prevent your organs from getting the water they need to function correctly if left untreated.
- Impaired brain development. Consuming alcohol while the brain is still developing can decrease your IQ, weaken your memory, and interfere with your ability to learn. High school and college students are especially susceptible to this consequence since the brain needs 25 years to fully develop.
- Increased risk of developing STIs and STDs. Being drunk can also make you more likely to have unsafe sex, resulting in sexually transmitted diseases, infections, and unplanned pregnancy.
- Increased risk of alcoholism. People who binge drink are more likely to become dependent on alcohol and develop an addiction. Signs of alcohol dependence and addiction include severe cravings, not being able to stop drinking once you start, needing more alcohol to experience its effects, and continuing to drink despite negative consequences.
Strategies to Stop Binge Drinking
Luckily, there are several ways you can stop binge drinking. Here are 5 ways how:
1. Recognize Your Triggers and Learn to Cope With Them
You might not realize it, but certain situations, people, thoughts, and feelings might encourage you to drink. Recognizing these triggers can help you learn alternative, healthier ways of coping. Instead of opening a beer or having a glass of wine after a stressful day, consider taking a long, relaxing bath. Exercising, playing sports, enjoying hobbies, connecting with others, and indulging in self-care activities can also help you cope with challenging emotions and circumstances without binge drinking.
2. Change Your Environment
Your environment can easily shape your behavior. When you’re trying to drink less, you may need to avoid bars, parties, and certain restaurants you associate with binge drinking. You might also have to limit your time socializing with people who regularly binge drink and who encourage you to do the same. Avoid places that focus on alcohol as fun. Instead, spend time enjoying sober activities such as:
- Art classes
- Playing an after-work sport
- Going to the movies
- Attending a concert
- Hosting an alcohol-free game night
3. Enlist The Help Of Family and Friends
Tell family members and friends you trust (and who are sober or drink less) that you’re trying to cut back on alcohol. These people can act as your “accountability buddies” and “sober friends.” Having support from your family and friends can help prevent you from feeling isolated and alone. You can also call on these individuals when you’re experiencing cravings, triggers, and symptoms of depression. Be sure to ask someone from this group to accompany you to any type of event where alcohol will be present.
4. Weigh the pros and cons
To help keep yourself motivated, write out a binge drinking pros and cons list and keep it in your wallet. Write out all the reasons why you want to stop binge drinking. Then, write out the cons associated with binge drinking. Having this list can help keep you motivated when your desire to binge drink less feels overwhelming or especially challenging.
5. Consider abstinence
For some people, quitting alcohol altogether can be more manageable than drinking occasionally. If this is true for you, alcohol rehabilitation programs such as the tracks we offer here at Bridges of Hope can help you overcome harmful drinking habits. Participating in self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous can also help support your sobriety journey.
Hope For A Healthier, Sober Life
Here at Bridges of Hope Treatment Center, we can help guide you through the alcohol withdrawal process and teach you the skills you need to live a long-term sober-free life. You don’t have to binge drink every time you’re uncomfortable, stressed, or emotionally worn out. There’s hope. Our addiction and dual diagnosis programs can help you overcome substance use and mental health challenges. Let us help you get there. Contact us today to learn more.