The Dangers of Binge Drinking

The Dangers of Binge Drinking | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Binge drinking is a term that is used to describe excessive alcohol consumption. If you drink in excess, then you may have what’s considered Alcohol Use Disorder – or AUD – which is on the rise in North America. In addition, excessive alcohol consumption is also one of the leading causes for many different health issues affecting people worldwide, and as many as 88,000 working-age individuals (between 20 and 64 years old) will die from alcohol-related causes each year.

Binge drinking is defined as having multiple servings of alcohol within a short time frame. For women, they fall under the category of binge drinking if they consume 4 or more alcoholic beverages in 2 hours, while men fall under the category of binge drinking if they consume 5 or more alcoholic beverages in 2 hours. Young adults, especially those that are College-age, tend to be more likely to drink to excess, though binge drinking and alcoholism do not discriminate and can affect people of all ages. Much like tobacco and illicit drugs, alcohol can also be addicting. This is partially due to the effects that alcohol has on the brain’s endorphins. These endorphins allow the brain to feel relaxed and/or euphoric, and when alcohol is introduced into the mix those feelings only become amplified. Inhibitions also lower, which can cause an individual to feel more confident. Some people also say they sleep better as a result of consuming alcohol. Because alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream fairly quickly, all of these effects are felt just as fast – sometimes immediate – but they also have their downsides.

Along with the release of endorphins, binge drinking can also cause things such as poor decision-making skills and lack of impulse control, loss of coordination, feeling ill/hungover, low body temperature, dehydration, and even seizures. Binge drinking can also cause alcohol poisoning, which is potentially fatal and requires urgent medical treatment. Because binge drinking also causes a rapid increase in blood alcohol levels, one can also suffer from blackouts – also known as alcohol-induced amnesia. Blackouts caused by binge drinking result in loss of memory and failure to remember certain chunks of time; for example, who you were with or what you did, which can be very problematic depending on the circumstances. Both men and women are at risk of suffering from blackouts as a result of binge drinking. However, women are at an increased risk due to their physical size and body compositions. Hormones are also a contributing factor. Adolescents who are not used to consuming alcohol are also at an increased risk, as they tend to overestimate just how much alcohol their bodies can handle.

While binge drinking and AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder) slightly differ, both are still considered signs of alcohol addiction or dependence. Drinking to the point of excess can not only cause blackouts, but it can lead to other health problems such as liver damage, anemia, cardiovascular disease, depression, high blood pressure, nerve damage, infections, pancreatitis, and even dementia. The only way to reduce the risk of these conditions is to stop drinking. However, those who are chronic drinkers will often require help to do so – and it’s okay to seek that help when you need it. If you’re struggling with alcohol or other substance abuse, it’s important to understand why and figure out the root cause. Alcoholism is often linked to things like depression and trauma, and it’s also known to run in families.

For more information on where you can seek treatment for both alcohol and drug abuse in British Columbia, visit HealthLink BC. The Government of Canada also has a list of National help resources available on their website at Canada.ca.