Updated: Mar 23
What is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is defined as excessive consumption of alcohol within a short period of time. It is usually 5 or more drinks for men and 4 or more for women in less than 2 hours. Binge drinking affects people in different ways. While most people drink alcohol occasionally, it is a problem if the alcohol consumption causes impairment in daily functioning. According to researchers, more than half of alcohol- related deaths are due to binge drinking. Heavy drinking such as this opens the walcohol-relateday for incidents such as car crashes, alcohol poisoning, violence, and suicide.
Why do People Binge Drink?
People often binge drink to do away with anxiety, depression or extreme stress. It becomes a coping mechanism to deal with the tough times in their lives such as the death of their loved one, unemployment or a relationship break up.
It is not uncommon for young people to encourage each other to drink in excess, add more rounds of shots or mix their drinks. Peer pressure also does not necessarily come in the form of pressure from friends. An individual by himself may also feel the need to drink more in order to impress his friends and fit in with the crowd.
Lack of awareness of alcohol tolerance Young adults and teens are more prone to go past their limits when they do not know how much alcohol they could handle. However, this is possible for older adults too who overestimate their tolerance.
Boredom/ Loneliness When a person is bored or lacks direction and feels isolated, it makes them more vulnerable to turning to alcohol and other substances in order to fill in that void.
Impact of Binge Drinking on Physical Health
Short-term effects of binge drinking can include:
Decreased motor coordination -
could lead to injuries and accidents such as falls, accidental drowning, car/ bike crashes and such.
Miscarriage/ stillbirth -
among pregnant women.
that could lead to risky and impulsive behaviours such as unprotected sex.
Increase in violent Behaviour -
and incidents of sexual and domestic abuse
Vomiting or nausea
Alcohol poisoning or blackouts
Some of the long- term effects of binge drinking are as follows:
Alcohol Use Disorder
when an individual engages in binge drinking over an extended period of time, it may cause structural changes in the brain especially complexes associated with decision-making or learning.
Binge drinking could damage the liver and disrupt its healthy functioning. Heavy drinking also affects the liver’s ability to repair itself.
Heavy consumption of alcohol has been associated with mouth, throat, breast, oesophagus, liver and colon cancer.
Over a period of time, people who engage in binge drinking may develop high blood pressure or may suffer from strokes and heart attacks.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder-
Binge drinking among pregnant women could lead to birth defects and other problems in the foetus.
Impact of Binge Drinking on Mental Health
As a general rule, drinking alcohol makes a person feel relaxed and more confident. It slows down his/ her reflexes and affects balance and coordination. In the long term, alcohol misuse would lead to an increase in the risk of severe health conditions in a person. This could include heart diseases, strokes, cancer, liver diseases and so on. It could also lead to an increase in social problems such as unemployment, breakups, marital discord and financial difficulties. Dealing with such issues and a drinking problem could adversely impact an individual’s mental health in several ways. Alcohol could impact a person’s mood, sleeping patterns, energy levels, memory, concentration and other things. Frequent or heavy alcohol use practises such as binge drinking could increase these effects especially on a person’s mood and his/her ability to cope with tough situations.
People who struggle with depression or anxiety often resort to consuming alcohol on a regular basis as it may help them feel a bit better. It gives them the instant, short- lived feeling of relaxation that they look for. However, the underlying, unresolved issues triggering their mental health remain untouched, thus causing them to feel worse once they become sober. This could often lead to binge drinking. Alcohol is an antidepressant that could disrupt the balance of the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in a person’s brain and affect his thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It affects a part of the brain that causes inhibition which then allows a person to feel less anxious, relaxed and confident after a drink. However, these effects wear off quickly which then leads to an increase in negative feelings such as anger, depression, anxiety and so on.
How Can You Stop Binge Drinking?
Have a Strategy for cutting down alcohol intake -
A clean plan along with some effective strategies could help a person stop engaging in binge drinking. Having an exit plan, socialising without alcohol, tracking the amount of alcohol consumed and setting up some targets or goals could be some effective measures.
Get Professional Help -
While the idea of going for therapy and talking about binge drinking habits may be embarrassing and scary, getting professional help from a therapist would be an important step to take when a person wants to stop this harmful habit. A therapist may be able to help the individual cut down on his/ her alcohol consumption and even recommend support groups in which he/ she could participate.
Finding a good support Group -
It is important for a person struggling with Binge drinking habits to know that he/ she is not alone. There are several people on the same journey as them. A support group may be extremely helpful in this case as many people find it reassuring and encouraging to talk about their problems and listen to others talk about their own struggles. People can share their experiences, gain strength from others, give and receive support from their peers through such groups.