In some circles—like college and work environments—binge drinking is often considered a rite of passage. The habit of binge drinking is also on the rise and has increased significantly each year on a per-capita basis. But binge drinking can have harmful effects and lead to more serious conditions. It is one of the main ways a person can develop patterns of alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
What is Binge Drinking?
Many people associate the the term “binge drinking” with the consumption of mass amounts of alcohol in a very short span of time. But according to the American Journal of Public Health, binge drinking is actually defined as consuming approximately five drinks for men and four drinks for women in a single sitting.
Each of these situations, however, are classified as alcohol abuse even if a person does not engage in it very often. Moreover, many people are unaware that alcohol abuse in any dose can lead to lifestyle instability, physical harm, mental health challenges.
What Are the Risks of Binge Drinking?
Alcohol is fundamentally toxic to the human body. When a person consumes a large amount of alcohol in a short span of time, the vital organs of the body become overwhelmed. It makes it difficult for organs like the kidneys and liver to process that amount of alcohol while alcohol’s toxicity permeates the bloodstream and other organs. When this happens, a person may feel “intoxicated.” Large amounts of alcohol can also cause alcohol poisoning, a health complication that requires immediate medical care and can be life-threatening.
High levels of intoxication are also associated with reckless and sometimes harmful behavior, including activities in which those who binge drink are more likely to engage. Such activities may include driving while intoxicated, participating in unprotected sex, or other physical activities that are potentially harmful. With alcohol abuse in the context of binge drinking, there is also an increased risk of drug use and self-harm.
What Are the Risks of Prolonged Alcohol Abuse?
Prolonged alcohol abuse like binge drinking can cause severe health complications including a person’s physical, emotional, and mental health. The degrees of severity can range from person to person based on their tolerance level, body type, and sometimes genetic predisposition. Some of the most common risks of prolonged binge drinking include:
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- Brain damage that can affect cognitive and motor function
- Memory loss
- Heart damage
- Increased risk of cancer
- Alcohol poisoning and sudden death
Because it is such a high-risk experience, binge drinking is never safe. Even if you just want to do so once, it can be life-threatening that very first time.
Types of Alcoholism Treatment
In addition to the health risks mentioned above, a person engaging in alcohol abuse also has a high likelihood of developing alcoholism, which is primarily expressed as an uncontrollable dependence on the substance.
If you think you may be struggling with alcohol abuse, seek immediate help. Your pathway to recovery may benefit from a medically-supervised detox, which helps remove harmful substances from your body and allows your organs to heal. There are also other extensive treatments for binge drinking and alcohol abuse that may include:
- Residential treatment
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Group therapy
- Individual therapy
- Trauma therapy
Quitting or reducing alcohol consumption can be more difficult for some than it is for others. While some people may drink only socially, others will become dependent on alcohol as a means of coping with struggles in their life.
Tips to Stop Binge Drinking at Home
If you think you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol abuse or binge drinking, the best first step toward sobriety is to seek clinical treatment in line with the therapies listed above. But for some people, this may not yet be necessary. If you or the person you know are in a position to safely attempt to eliminate or reduce your alcohol intake, you may find the approaches below helpful to get you started.
Finding a support network that can keep you accountable to your health goals is an important first step toward breaking bad habits. The system of support might include friends, family members, or even a group like Alcoholics Anonymous. It is easier to justify and rationalize continued alcohol use if a person keeps it a secret, which is why communicating with a supportive person or community is central to the process of accountability.
Adjust Your Environment
Consistent alcohol consumption often goes hand-in-hand with a person’s regular environments and what they do with their free time. If a person’s friends are a part of their support network, they may be open to adjusting the types of recreational activities to those that are less exposed to alcohol. If your group of friends is not supportive of making adjustments, then you may find it necessary at times to kindly decline certain invitations that are particularly high-risk for alcohol consumption.
Simple boundaries like reducing the level of alcohol you consume can be a very helpful step toward optimal health. By thinking about the times of day you drink regularly or trying to identify the common types of alcohol that you binge on, it can be a lot easier to structure your day and set manageable goals to reduce your alcohol intake. You can measure your success with a clear understanding of your process and set new goals toward reducing consumption, step by step.
Seek Outside Help
With all this said, it is imperative to remember that alcohol consumption can come to a point when self-treatment are simply ineffective. Long-term alcoholics or those with prolonged habits of binge drinking often experience withdrawal symptoms as a result of the “cold turkey” method.
If you or someone you know has recently acknowledged the presence of alcohol abuse in their life, don’t wait to seek outside help.
To learn more about how to start your healing journey at Impact Recovery, get in touch with a member of our team here.