A Normal Phase or a Red Flag? The Dangers of Binge Drinking
A lot of people experiment with alcohol in adolescence or young adulthood. The common image in the media of the college experience is that of twenty-somethings at a frat party, complete with kegs and beer bongs. In many movies and TV shows, this kind of experimentation, or scenes of excessive drinking, is treated as a rite of passage. It’s often presented as normal, humorous, and fun. In college or at social events, binge drinking may seem like the norm and is often regarded as an acceptable part of life. Unfortunately, these scenes disguise the true dangers of binge drinking. For some people, this behavior may be just a phase or a once-in-a-blue-moon wild night out, but for others, it can have devastating consequences and serve as a serious red flag for alcoholism.
Blackouts and Injury: The Dangers of Binge Drinking
Binge drinking is different from daily drinking, but it can be just as dangerous. Binge drinking is defined as consuming enough alcohol to raise one’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to a 0.08 percent or above, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) This is the legal limit in most states at which a person can no longer drive.
The amount of alcohol it takes to reach this level varies for each individual depending upon tolerance, weight, and a range of other factors, but for most men it happens after about five drinks consumed in 2 hours and for women, four drinks consumed in that same amount of time (according to the CDC.) It’s more common in people ages 18-34 than in other segments of the population, but it happens in every age, race, ethnic, economic, and social class in the country. For some people, binge drinking may be a phase they grow out of when life circumstances change.
For example, a lot of young adults binge drink in college, but many of them are able to stop and change their behavior in order to get a job after graduating, or because they experience significant consequences that cause them to re-evaluate their behavior.
For people with a predisposition to alcoholism, however, binge drinking is a huge warning sign that someone’s behavior is out of control and that they are at risk of developing a physical dependence on alcohol. For these people, binge drinking may turn into daily drinking. Even if it doesn’t there are still many dangers of binge drinking. This include:
- Injuries or fatalities from car crashes or other accidents
- Decreased judgment leading to uncharacteristic, violent behavior or making risky choice, such as engaging in unprotected sex
- Alcohol poisoning that can lead to death in some cases
- High blood pressure, stroke, and cardiovascular disease
- Liver disease
- Neurological issues and problems with cognitive functioning
- Damaged social or familial relationships
- Isolation, depression, or anxiety
- Problems at work or in school
- Addiction to alcohol
When people choose to binge drink, they run the risk of losing their capacity to make good choices and have clear judgment. Some binge drinkers may even experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
In many cases, binge drinking leads to poor decisions, such as drinking and driving. Binge drinking can impair an individual’s physical health, as well as harm their relationships with others. This pattern of drinking is especially scary for people who have exhibited addictive personality traits because it drastically increases their chance of developing alcoholism.
Symptoms of Binge Drinking
Binge drinking can look different based on who is engaging in it, and some people’s binge may look normal to others. However, there are some clear indicators that someone is drinking excessively and may be a risk of the dangers of binge drinking. These symptoms include:
- Consuming more alcohol than you had planned
- Drinking excessively every weekend
- Frequently experiencing blackouts or memory loss after a period of drinking
- Increases tolerance to alcohol (needing more to produce the same effect)
- Feeling the need to lie about or hide how much you drink, or your drinking patterns
- Often making impulsive or risky choices when drinking
- Driving after drinking even if you don’t intend to
- Feeling depressed or anxious after a period of drinking
- Having family members or friends comment on, or express concern about, how much you drink during a given period of time
For some people, one of the major dangers of binge drinking is that it can morph into alcoholism, or can fuel a pre-existing mental illness like bipolar disorder or depression. When someone chooses to drink excessively, it can establish a pattern of behavior that can become addictive, especially if the individual is using alcohol to self-medicate another condition that requires professional help. In fact, binge drinking can be a sign of alcoholism in and of itself, whether or not the individual ever begins drinking daily. Alcoholism looks different on everyone affected by it, and even if someone is not drinking every day, a pattern of binge drinking can be considered alcoholic behavior. If you or someone you love drinks excessively and needs help to stop, call Wellness Retreat Recovery at 1-855-762-3797 for alcoholism treatment.