Alcohol is often the staple of social gatherings. Most large-scale events offer alcohol in some capacity. A vast majority of people will consume alcohol at some point in their lives, but not everyone drinks it in the same manner. Alcoholism can sometimes be hard to define because alcohol affects everyone differently. For some, a small amount of alcohol can create a buzz, while others have to consume several beverages before feeling the effects. This process can make it difficult to tell when alcohol consumption becomes problematic.
One form of consumption that almost always leads to detrimental outcomes is binge drinking. Binge drinking is consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time. Usually occurring amongst college-aged adults, binge drinking is more common than you might think. Even those who drink infrequently may binge when they have the occasional alcoholic beverage. Although binge drinking may not occur regularly, it can have profound health implications and put those around the person at risk as well.
Defining Binge Drinking
Because alcohol affects everyone differently, it can be difficult to tell when drinking becomes problematic. In general terms, binge drinking is the act of consuming a significant amount of alcohol in a short period of time, but a “large amount” varies from person to person. Typically, this means drinking four or more drinks for women and drinking five or more drinks for men over the span of two hours. Not everyone who binges drinks has an alcohol use disorder, but heavy drinking can lead to one over time.
Identifying at what point alcohol use becomes problematic is different for everyone. Some people cannot consume alcohol without experiencing issues. Others can drink more frequently and not develop a dependency. The impact of alcohol consumption on a person is highly individualistic and is dependent on several factors such as biological differences, family history, and frequency of consumption. Even factors such as how recently you ate and how quickly you consumed alcohol can impact its effects.
The Effects of Binge Drinking on Health
Studies suggest that nearly half of all alcohol-related deaths and binge drinking are linked. Being under the influence can affect your actions, putting you at a greater risk of injury and accidents. Alcohol affects your coordination and judgment, which can increase the likelihood of death from vehicular accidents, drowning, suffocation, and other types of accidents.
Excessive alcohol consumption can affect several of your vital organs, including:
- Heart: Drinking can increase your blood pressure, cause irregular heartbeat, or lead to heart failure.
- Kidneys: Drinking can increase urination and cause vomiting. The combination of these two side effects can lead to dehydration.
- Lungs: Alcohol can impair your gag reflex, which may make it easier for liquids, saliva, and vomit to enter the lungs, leading to inflammation or suffocation.
- Pancreas: Heavy alcohol consumption can make your blood sugar levels drop dangerously low.
In addition to increasing your risk for injury, binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning. Consuming too much alcohol in a short period can have deadly consequences. Alcohol poisoning can impair your breathing, gag reflex, heart rate, and body temperature. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
- Pale or blue-tinged skin
- Irregular or slow breathing
- Low body temperature
- Passing out
Alcohol poisoning can put a person at an increased risk for death. If someone is displaying alcohol poisoning symptoms, it is crucial to call for help and not leave them alone. With an impaired gag reflex, a person can pass out and choke on their vomit. They may also inhale their regurgitate and suffocate.
Binge drinking also poses a risk to long-term health. In addition to potentially developing an alcohol use disorder, binge drinking can negatively impact the following:
- Immune system: Chronic alcohol use can suppress the immune system and increase the likelihood of developing illnesses.
- Bones and muscles: Long-term alcohol consumption can affect bone formation and calcium absorption, leading to osteoporosis development.
- Mental health issues: Regular alcohol consumption can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, and psychosis.
- Nervous system: Because of its effects on vital organs, heavy alcohol consumption can increase stroke or dementia risk.
- Digestive system: Alcohol can impair the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, leading to malnutrition.
If you find that you cannot limit your alcohol intake, it could indicate a developing problem. Needing to consume more alcoholic beverages to feel the same effects and having withdrawal symptoms when not under the influence can also show dependencies are growing. Abstaining from alcohol use when dependencies have developed can be dangerous as withdrawal symptoms can range in severity and may be life-threatening if not addressed appropriately. If you suspect you have a problem with alcohol, seeking the help of medical professionals is vital. Not only can it help you develop the coping mechanisms to avoid the pitfalls of alcoholism, but it can also ensure your recovery is both safe and effective. Alcohol is a legal substance and abundantly available. Therefore, overcoming alcoholism alone is not easy, and enlisting professionals’ help can help you successfully break the abuse cycle.
Nexus Recovery Services offers outpatient treatment in Southern California, and we can help if you find you have a problem with alcohol. Contact us today to learn more about our program of recovery.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.