What is “binge drinking?”
Binge drinking is a scary and growing trend, most prevalent amongst college students but becoming more common among high school students as well. Binge drinking requires consuming an excessive amount of alcohol in a brief period of time and is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse as “a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above.” In laymen’s terms, binge drinking is a style of heavy episodic drinking with the intent of becoming heavily intoxicated in a short period of time. When a man consumes 5 or more alcoholic beverages in a period of two hours or a woman consumes 4 or more alcoholic beverages in the same period, this is considered “binge drinking.” Binge drinking is a major public health issue that can lead to a number of serious problems for your teen, including alcohol poisoning, a host of health issues and possible future alcoholism or alcohol dependence. In short, binge drinking is bad for your health, hinders your ability to perform school work or perform at your place of employment, bad for your relationships and can potentially derail future goals. There is nothing good about binge drinking.
Who Would do Such a Thing?
The statistics regarding binge drinking may surprise you:
· Men are twice as likely to binge drink than women
· Though people of all ages binge drink, the practice is most common among young adults aged 18-34 years
· Most young adults under the age of 21 who drink regularly report binge drinking on numerous occasions
· Shockingly, one out of every six adults in the United States binge drinks approximately four times a month and imbibes 8 or more drinks during each binge. That’s every weekend!
· Binge drinking is more common in more affluent households where the household income is $75,000 or more
· Of excessive drinkers in the United States, 90% of those excessive drinkers have had at least one episode of binge drinking in the past thirty days
What’s the Worst That Could Happen?
As you can imagine, binge drinking is a serious matter with some serious risks attached. Regular heavy binge drinking can:
· Wreak havoc on your health and is associated with many adverse effects on cardiac, neurologic, gastrointestinal, immune and hematologic systems, among others
· Increase the risk of chronic disease like heart disease, liver disease and stroke or sudden death
· Increase the risk of breast cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer and a host of other cancers
· Lead to alcohol poisoning
· Cause an increased risk of alcohol-induced psychiatric disorders
· Lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and fetal alcohol syndrome in pregnant mothers who binge drink
· Lead to traffic accidents
· Lead to thoughts of suicide
· Lead to or cause violent behavior
· Raise the likelihood of a future alcohol use disorder and alcoholism
· Increase the likelihood of intimate partner violence and sexual assault
· Cause memory and learning problems
This Sounds Terrible — What Can Be Done?
The Task Force on Community Preventive Services recommends “evidence-based interventions to prevent binge drinking and related harms.” Some of these recommended strategies include:
· Using pricing strategies and increasing alcohol taxes
· Reducing the number of liquor stores and retail alcohol outlets in a given area
· Making alcohol retailers liable for the harms caused by illegal alcohol sales to minors
· Limiting access to alcohol by reducing the days and hours you can purchase alcohol
· Screening and counseling for those affected by alcohol abuse
· Being consistent about enforcing underage drinking and DUI laws
In addition, motivational interventions, employer interventions and education have been shown to be beneficial in discouraging young adults from future binge drinking. For more severe cases, involvement by parents and a family psychotherapist may be needed and possible admission to an alcohol treatment program.
The bottom line is that if you or someone you know is binge drinking seek help from a professional before the situation worsens and becomes a serious family problem.