Binge Drinking Facts: Definition, Effects, and Dangers

short term effects of binge drinking

Binge drinking might seem harmless enough. After all, many people have experienced some binge drinking in their life, especially in college or in their early 20s. In reality, though, binge drinking can be very dangerous and can even lead to the development of an alcohol addiction.

Not only that, but since the body can’t properly break down alcohol, flooding it with a lot of alcohol in a short period of time can also lead to significant health problems as well. It’s important to properly educate yourself on the dangers of binge drinking and learn binge drinking facts, especially if you are someone who suffers from alcohol abuse or knows someone that does. In this blog, we will take a look at what exactly binge drinking is as well as look at some of the biggest reasons why people binge drink and you or a loved one can get help for a drinking problem.

What Is Binge Drinking?

By definition, binge drinking means the drinker is putting excessive amounts of alcohol into their body in a short period of time. Basically, the goal of binge drinking is to get as drunk as possible as quickly as possible. 

Binge drinking is often glamorized in Hollywood. It’s frequently shrugged off as “kids being kids” when it is done in high school or college. But there is nothing pretty about it. Based on a variety of things just as weight and chemical makeup, binge drinking has a different definition for men than it does for women. For men, binge drinking is considered having 5 or more drinks in a period of 2 hours. For women, it’s having 4 or more drinks in a 2-hour window. Regardless of gender, a drink is considered the following by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

  • 12 oz of beer
  • 5oz of wine
  • 1.5oz of liquor

While many assume that binge drinking largely affects teenagers and young adults, in the United States, binge drinking is most common in young adults and some older adults. This group is the largest binge drinking group by a large margin as well, making up for a massive amount of all binge drinkers in the country. 

Is Binge Drinking Considered an Alcohol Addiction or Dependency?

While binge drinking is not viewed as any sort of alcohol-related disorder, it can very easily lead to the development of one. Many binge drinkers are not alcohol dependant at the time they are binge drinking. However, the line between binge drinking and developing an alcohol-related problem is slim and can be crossed rather quickly. When this happens, not only is alcohol abuse or addiction a problem but serious health complications can begin to come into the equation. 

What Are Some of the Common Signs of Binge Drinking?

Everyone reacts differently to not only drinking but the effects of drinking. Some people pride themselves on having a high tolerance while others might only need a drink before they start feeling its effects. As a result, there are no universal signs of binge drinking. That being said, though, there are still some common signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for when trying to spot a binge drinker. 

The following are some common signs of binge drinking:

  • Drinking often
  • Drinking early in the day
  • Drinking more than you planned regularly
  • Not being able to slow down drinking
  • Not being able to stop drinking
  • Feel defensive anytime someone brings up your drinking
  • Taking part in dangerous or unlawful activities during and/or after drinking
  • Needing more and more alcohol to reach your desired effect
  • Spending more time drinking and less time doing other activities you used to enjoy
  • Feeling nauseous, shaky, or even weak when you haven’t had a drink in a while
  • Regularly “blacking out” when drinking

If you or someone you know “checks off” any of the boxes above it might be time to talk to someone or even seek help. Failing to get your drinking under control can have significant health repercussions down the line, not to mention the increased risk of the development of an alcohol-related disorder.

What Are Some of the Side Effects of Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is associated with a wide range of physical health problems. It is also associated with mental health issues as well. Some of the side effects associated with binge drinking are largely benign and short-term. However, others are much more extreme and can lead to major health issues and even permanent damage.  

Short-Term Side Effects of Binge Drinking

Short-term, many of the side effects of binge drinking are things you would expect to happen to the body when you have had a lot of alcohol. These include:

  • Nausea
  • Hostility
  • Vomiting
  • Shakiness
  • Sleepiness
  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Poor decision making
  • Coordination problems
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Slower reaction times
  • Low blood pressure
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Slower breathing

While uncomfortable, these might seem innocent enough. You may have experienced some or all of these things when you have drank in the past. However, experiencing these side effects regularly can lead to major health problems and even permanent damage to certain organs in the body down the line. 

Long-Term Side Effects

That’s where some of the more severe long-term side effects come in. Some of these include:

  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Infertility
  • Brain damage
  • Liver disease
  • Heart problems
  • Unhealthy weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Mental health problems
  • Weakened immune system
  • Loss of brain volume

Another major problem associated with binge drinking is the propensity for people to do things that are either dangerous, against the law, or both when inebriated. People tend to drink and drive which not only puts the person who is drunk at risk but also anyone else that could be in the drinker’s car or another car on the road. Additionally, while there is no direct correlation, instances of sexual assault and domestic violence can have a higher likeliness to occur when either one or both parties have been drinking. 

Can I Get Help For Binge Drinking?

help for binge drinking For those who realize that their drinking is problematic, there are many different ways in which they can get help. For those who feel that they struggle with binge drinking but don’t feel that they have a larger alcohol-related issue, talking to a doctor might be a great first step. They might be able to help give you tips on how to cut back. Or, if that’s not an option, they might be able to refer individuals to a therapist or even treatment facility to help them quit drinking entirely.

For those who feel that treatment is the best course of action, the first step is to detox and rid your body of all the alcohol that might still be in it. Detoxing will also clear away any other potentially harmful substances. Due to the nature of detox and the side effects associated with it, this should be done under the care and supervision of trained medical professions. Individuals can detox at either a local medical facility, a detox center, or an addiction treatment center that also offers detox services. Attempting to self-detox can be incredibly dangerous and in some cases even life-threatening. 

Once detoxing has been completed, then treatment can begin. Those suffering from an alcohol-related issue tend to also suffer from a mental health condition too, largely as a result of the effects that drinking has on the brain. As a result, alcohol treatment has both physical and mental aspects. This can include various therapies, treatment programs, and medication-assisted treatment.

Some of the treatments we offer for those suffering from an alcohol-related condition include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Medication-assisted treatment may involve the use of certain medications such as:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Methadone
  • Naltrexone

Want to Know More About Binge Drinking Facts?

While it may seem harmless and even enjoyable, binge drinking can lead to much more serious issues such as major health problems and even the development of an addiction. At New Directions for Women, we understand that alcohol-related conditions can have major consequences if not treated properly. That’s why we offer a variety of treatment options for those suffering from alcohol abuse or addiction. If you or someone you know is suffering from an alcohol-related condition, such as binge drinking, contact us today. We want every woman we treat to leave our facility living a happy, healthy, and sober life. 

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