Binge Drinking & How It Affects Your Body
For many, especially young adults, nights filled with beer and shots of liquor are extremely common. Heavy drinking is often seen as a “coming of age” activity, and the effects of drinking seem minuscule compared to the fun and rambunctious times. What many don’t realize is that excessive heavy drinking leads to much more than hangovers, headaches, and upset stomachs.
A 2015 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention determined that 1 in 6 U.S. adults reported binge drinking at least four times a month. Though many believe that long-term damage from excessive alcohol use is limited to alcoholics, frequent binge drinking can cause serious health issues.
Here’s what you need to know about binge drinking, to include the short- and long-term health impacts as well as how an intensive outpatient program can help you regain control over your life.
Why People Binge Drink
The most common reason that people binge drink is simply because it’s a social activity that’s seen as fun and exciting. Under the influence of alcohol, people are more likely to step outside of their comfort zone and do things they wouldn’t normally do. Others drink to let loose and to relieve various stressors in their life.
Because binge drinking is exciting, most people fail to understand the serious implications that excessive alcohol consumption can have. Most people go through the hangover and then find themselves binge drinking again just a few days later!
Immediate Impacts of Binge Drinking
Most people feel the effects of their first drink within 5 to 10 minutes. The liver, which breaks down 90% of alcohol in the body, can only process around one standard drink per hour. Binge drinkers consume much more than what the liver is able to process, which means blood alcohol content increases and the effects of alcohol are much stronger.
For some, binge drinking simply leads to getting drunk quicker but, for others, the activity can be risky and sometimes even fatal. A CDC study found that around 50% of all alcohol-related deaths are because of acute intoxication. Binge drinking can be deadly in that it:
- Can cause alcohol poisoning
- Depresses the gag reflex, which increases the risk of one choking on their vomit after blacking out
- Impacts judgment, which increases the risk of dangerous actions
If you’ve ever suffered from alcohol poisoning, have passed out because of drinking, or have made a dangerous decision under the influence of alcohol, it’s important to look into programs for treating addiction. Otherwise, your next binge drinking episode could become your last.
Not only does alcohol impair judgment, decision making, and coordination; it also impacts various organs throughout the body. Alcohol causes inflammation in the stomach, liver, and pancreas. This inflammation can be caused by several binge drinking sessions in a short timeframe or because of a single very heavy binge drinking episode. Alcohol causes inflammation and irritation and also hinders the body’s ability to heal.
There are many life-altering and seriously dangerous short-term effects of binge drinking that you need to be aware of. Excessive drinking can cause irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and even sudden death from heart failure. Binge drinking also impacts the lungs, increasing the risk of infection and inflammation.
Because alcohol is a diuretic, it causes the kidneys to produce more urine. The more urine the body creates, the higher the risk of dangerously low levels of potassium, sodium, and other minerals in the body. Excessive urine production can also cause dehydration, a condition that can be worsened by vomiting.
Aside from impacts to internal organs, binge drinking also puts your sexual risk at health. When you’re drunk, your judgment is clouded and you’re more likely to make decisions that you otherwise wouldn’t make when not under the influence. Being drunk greatly increases the risk of unsafe and unprotected sex, which means an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases or even an unintentional pregnancy.
While these short-term side effects are quite scary, many people continue to binge drink and avoid undergoing alcohol detox and addiction recovery because many of these short-term side-effects go away. It isn’t until something serious happens, such as a life-long injury, that people realize the extent of their substance abuse problem.
The more frequently someone binge drinks, the more likely they are to experience lasting damage, some of which may be irreversible. One of the most serious long-term effects of excessive binge drinking is the increased risk of cancer. People who binge drink are more likely to be diagnosed with various forms of cancer, including:
Women who have three or more alcoholic drinks a week have a 15% higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Experts believe that the risk of breast cancer increases 10% for each additional drink that a woman has each day.
Men also face an increased risk of breast cancer. Because alcohol impacts the liver, which has a crucial role in balancing sex hormones in men, those who suffer from liver damage because of alcohol use are also at a higher risk of breast cancer, as well as benign male breast growth.
As if an increased risk of cancer isn’t scary enough, excessive alcohol intake also increases the risk of many other serious health conditions, including:
- Liver cirrhosis
- Heart attack/heart failure
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Suppressed immune system
- Weakened bones and muscles
Aside from physical health issues, those who drink heavily are also more likely to suffer from mental health conditions. Heavy drinkers are at an increased risk of anxiety, depression, psychosis, and substance abuse.
Reducing the Risk of Alcohol-Related Health Conditions
To minimize the risk of alcohol-related health issues, one of the best things to do is to reduce the amount of alcohol that you consume, as well as the frequency in which you consume it. Per the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, men should consume no more than 14 drinks per week and women should consume no more than 7 drinks per week. Yet, minimizing and reducing doesn’t eliminate these risks entirely.
Not consuming alcohol at all is the only tried and proven way to completely avoid the risks associated with the substance.
For those who suffer from alcohol addiction, reducing alcohol intake can be impossible, while for others it can be dangerous. Alcohol withdrawal can be deadly, especially if one has been excessively drinking for a long period of time. If you’re unable to control the amount of alcohol that you consume, you’re likely suffering from an addiction.
More often than not, substance abuse problems, especially those involving alcohol, are best treated through a medically supervised alcohol detox and an addiction recovery program.
Need Help with Binge Drinking? RECO Intensive Can Help
Alcohol addiction is not only unhealthy; it can be fatal. If you’re finding that your alcohol consumption is reaching dangerous levels, it’s important to seek substance abuse help so that you can regain control over your health and your life.
At RECO Intensive, we help thousands of clients each year who suffer from alcohol addiction and other substance abuse problems. We offer several effective programs, such as alcohol detox and intensive outpatient therapy, in treating addiction.
Your health matters! Call our office today to learn more about our alcohol addiction programs and how they can help put an end to your binge drinking problem.