Binge Drinking: the Facts
Here at Cassiobury Court, we’re deeply involved in helping ‘problem drinkers’ successfully complete the path to sobriety. Our team works tirelessly helping our patients survive their addiction to this legal but potentially deadly drug. This may entail our front-line staff successfully admitting patients into our state-of-the-art alcohol detox centre and aiding our patients through the pains of alcohol rehabilitation.
But like all nightmares, this tale of woe has its origin in much more innocent settings. Nobody ‘intends’ on developing an addiction to alcohol and it is all too often for mere ‘binge drinkers’ to go on and develop alcoholism. For this very reason, we’ve written this handy guide to binge drinking with the aim of educating our readers on what is the slippery slope into alcoholism.
Definition of binge drinking
Binge drinking, or ‘Heavy Episodic Drinking’ as it is also known as has come to be defined in the United Kingdom as consuming twice the daily recommended number of units of alcohol as that recommended by various health authorities and the Government. If you’re a man this means you’re a ‘binge drinker’ if you consume in excess of 6-8 units in one drinking session and 4-6 if you’re a woman. By way of contrast, if you’re in North America ‘binge drinking’ is defined as drinking more than five alcoholic beverages if you’re a man and drinking more than four alcoholic beverages if you’re a woman (known colloquially as the ‘5/4 rule’). Currently, no international definition exists for the concept of ‘binge drinking’.
The UK and US definitions alike are not most people’s concept ‘binge drinking’. For most the term pulls up visions of Charlie Sheen-esque ‘benders’ lasting several days. Unfortunately (for some at least) the bar as to the volume of alcohol you must consume in order to be ‘on a binge’ is considerably lower.
Put simply, if you drink more than twice your daily recommended quantity of alcohol units you are putting your health at risk – something we shall be discussing below. If you plan to drink four ‘tinnies’ on a Saturday night, you’re bingeing. If you’re planning on sipping down four glasses of wine this Friday evening, you’ve earned the unfortunate title of ‘binge drinker’.
Health effects of binge drinking
Most self-identified binge drinkers view themselves as invincible when it comes to their drinking. The rationale being that their excessive drinking habit is something they’ll only do ‘now and again’ and so their drinking cannot cause them any long-term health problems. However, studies have attributed a whole host of unpleasant long-term health problems brought on by binge drinking. Such health problems include but are not limited to:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Alcohol poisoning
- Increased risk of suicide
- Increased risk of pregnancy and contracting sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV)
- Heightened risk of developing alcoholism
- Liver disease
- Metabolic syndrome (particularly if you’re under 19)
- Foetal alcohol syndrome if you drink during pregnancy
- Increased risk of accidents, particularly road traffic accidents
To prevent the onset of the above negative health risks it is advisable for you to keep within the daily recommended number of units of alcohol.
‘Binge drinking’ is, at least in Europe, a rather peculiar and unique aspect of British culture. We are perhaps best advised to look on to the example set by our counterparts in France and Italy who drink less than us in one sitting but drink more frequently. This pattern of drinking has in fact been proved to bestow the drinker with positive health effects.
Why teens should avoid binge drinking
Binge drinking is also associated with short-term impairment of mental processes used to carry out even the simplest of day-to-day tasks, especially for drinkers who are under the age of 30. If you’re under the age of 15 your binge drinking can have lasting ramifications on your mental health. In fact, studies have shown teenagers who binge drink exhibit many of the same cognitive impairments as displayed by chronic alcoholics.
It’s also been shown that binge drinking affects the thickness of the brain’s pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain utilised in helping you make safe and rational decisions, controlling impulses and paying attention. The more you drink and the younger you are the more the brain is affected.