Binge Drinking. What images come to mind–college parties and students on Spring Break? While binge drinking is most common among young adults (ages 18-34), more than half of the total amount of consumed beverages from binge-drinking are from those ages 35 and older. If you began using alcohol at an early age, binged during your college-aged years and beyond, and identify as male, you are especially at risk! Binge drinking is 2X more common in men (consuming 4 out of 5 binge drinks). When comparing data compiled in 2018 among states, Minnesota ranked as one of the highest, with 20.3% of adults reporting engaging in binge drinking. These numbers have significantly increased as more-Americans-are-binge-drinking with the pandemic, especially among women. In addition, binge drinking has been and exacerbated by decline in mental health, impacted by stress, anxiety, and social isolation.
Binge-drinking is defined as 5 or more drinks for males and 4 or more drinks in females, in about a 2- hour period. Heavy alcohol use can cause serious long-lasting damage. The good news is that these consequences can be preventable.
Short + Long-Term Costs of Binge-Drinking Related to Heavy Alcohol Use
Intoxication and Increased Risk Of Death
- Blood alcohol content will increase as you drink more alcohol than the liver can process.
- There is increased risk of acute intoxication/ alcohol poisoning, injuries, and death. Inhibited gag reflex increases likelihood of choking to death on own vomit.
Serious Effects on the Brain
- Relaxation/ disorientation, difficulties walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, and slowed reaction times are changes impacted by the effect of alcohol on the brain.
- Long-term-effects of heavy alcohol use affects-brain-memory loss in later adulthood for young people who binge drink as adolescent brain is believed to be more vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol.
- Short and long-term effects on the brain including harm in-utero to a developing fetus as well as increased risk for miscarriage and stillbirth.
Poor Mental & Sexual Health
- Negative impact on coping with mental health; alcohol use is often linked to suicidal ideation and suicide attempts; heavy drinkers are at higher risk of depression, anxiety, and psychosis in addition to developing alcohol use disorders.
- Sexual health issues including reduced sex drive and reduced fertility.
Impaired Judgment, Risky, & Reckless Behavior
- Impaired judgement can lead to risky and reckless behaviors such as drinking while driving and unprotected sex. This includes increased risk of sexually transmitted infections STI’s and unplanned pregnancy.
Violence & Abuse
- Intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and child abuse as alcohol is a significant contributing factor of heavy alcohol use.
Serious Effects on the Body
- Dangerously low levels of sodium, potassium and minerals with dehydration.
- Serious effects on your body including heart and kidney-related problems, issues with the pancreas and lungs.
- Long-term affects impacting the immune system, nervous system, bones/ muscles, and gut health. This can lead to issues such as impaired coordination, osteoporosis, and malnutrition.
The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month. If you are struggling with heavy alcohol use or binge drinking, please reach out for help. You can also contact the SAMHSA’s National Hotline at 1-800-662-4357 for referral and treatment options in your area.
Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC
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