What Is Binge Drinking Doing to Your Brain and Body?
The same scenario plays out time and time again.
One drink turns into two. Then three. And then the person loses count. It’s called binge drinking, and it can have serious effects on the brain and body.
Around 24% of people aged 12 and over reported binge drinking during the previous month, according to one study. That’s around 66 million people.
There isn’t an age group most likely to binge drink — binge drinking occurs in every age group. While the practice remains high among teens and young adults, older adults consume more alcohol than ever before; it’s a problem among all generations.
Whether drinking alone or with friends or family, binge drinking can be an issue that might escalate into alcohol dependency or addiction. In severe cases, binge drinking can cause an overdose, especially if someone mixes alcohol with another substance.
Treating binge drinking involves:
- Identifying the root cause of alcohol abuse, whether an underlying personality disorder, traumatic event, or behavioral issue.
- Increasing the chances of successful recovery.
- Reducing the possibility of relapse.
In this guide, learn about the harm caused by binge drinking and the benefits of seeking treatment for alcohol dependency or addiction.
What Is Binge Drinking?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) describes binge drinking as:
A pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent — or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter — or higher. For a typical adult, this pattern of alcohol misuse corresponds to consuming 4 or more drinks (female), or 5 or more drinks (male) in about 2 hours.”
But this definition doesn’t include the reasons someone binge drinks, or the harm caused by binge drinking. People binge drink for all kinds of reasons, including peer pressure or social anxiety. Many people might binge drink because it feels good, or at least it does until the hangover kicks in the next morning. Maybe someone is susceptible to alcohol abuse or binge drinking runs in their family.
But binge drinking can cause physiological health risks and psychological issues like dependency and addiction. That’s because alcohol is a psychoactive drug that triggers the brain’s neurotransmitters and affects the central nervous system. It often provides a relaxing or euphoric feeling. Alcohol can also make it easier to communicate with others in social situations.
However, like all psychoactive drugs, alcohol is susceptible to abuse. Someone who consumes too much alcohol, even if they only ‘binge’ once a week, can soon develop a dependency on this substance. When someone becomes dependent on alcohol, addiction can follow. The alcohol user then has two options:
- Continue binge drinking and risk their health
- Seek professional help
When someone chooses the latter, they learn the tools and techniques to curb their alcohol consumption habits and lead a healthier, happier life. No more hangovers. No more regrets.
A new life of recovery.
Some treatment centers take a generalized approach to alcohol abuse, while others have programs that cater specifically to those who binge drink to help them manage their alcohol consumption habits or quit drinking for good, with various therapies that reduce the risk of relapse.
If you have a problem with binge drinking or know someone who excessively consumes alcohol, call Zinnia Health at (855) 430-9439.
Harm Caused by Binge Drinking
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) exists on a spectrum, ranging from mild to severe. Binge drinkers anywhere on this spectrum might need help to manage their alcohol intake or quitting the substance for good.
There’s a misconception that binge drinkers differ from others who abuse alcohol. Some people think they won’t develop an addiction to alcohol if they only drink once a week or month.
Binge drinking can be just as dangerous as consuming alcohol every day. Binge drinkers overload their bodies with alcohol, abstain from the drug, and then repeat this process. This behavior can cause their bodies to go into withdrawal, increasing the risk of an overdose in the future.
“AUD is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences,” says the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “It encompasses the conditions that some people refer to as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, and the colloquial term, alcoholism.”
Short-Term Harm Caused By Binge Drinking
Some of the short-term effects of binge drinking include:
- Heart problems. Binge drinking increases blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat, which can cause instant heart failure. There are lots of cases of people who have died after a night of excessive alcohol consumption.
- Low blood sugar. Excessive alcohol use might cause low blood sugar levels, which can have a dangerous impact on the pancreas.
- Dehydration. Even though binge drinking involves consuming lots of liquid, alcohol has a diuretic effect, causing the kidneys to produce pure urine.
- Risk-taking behavior. When people consume lots of alcohol, they are more likely to take part in risky behavior. This behavior might include unsafe sex, leading to a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Long-Term Harm Caused by Binge Drinking
If binge drinking continues, some of the long-term effects on the brain and body include:
- Calcium deficiency. Binge drinking, over time, can reduce the body’s ability to absorb calcium properly, affecting bone formation and increasing the chances of osteoporosis.
- Nutrition problems. Alcohol makes it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients from food and can lead to digestive issues. Malnutrition is one common side effect of long-term alcohol abuse.
- Anemia/suppressed immune system. Excessive drinking can cause anemia and a suppressed immune system, leading to other health risks.
- Stroke. Binge drinking can increase the possibility of stroke.
- Dementia. Binge drinking over time can also increase the possibility of dementia.
- Mental health. Binge drinking for long periods can intensify mental health issues like anxiety, stress, and depression.
Binge drinking can also lead to other unhealthy alcohol consumption patterns. What starts as five or six drinks on a Friday night might, eventually, develop into a daytime drinking habit, especially if the alcohol user is susceptible to alcohol abuse. As someone’s alcohol dependency or addiction worsens, they might experience these problems:
- A breakdown in social relationships when the person bases their day-to-day activities and schedule around alcohol.
- Financial problems when the person spends their money on alcohol and alcohol-related activities.
- A lack of focus or ambition.