The Dangers of Binge Drinking

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Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in America. While occasional alcohol use is fine, some people have a hard time controlling how much alcohol they consume at once. When you drink large amounts of alcohol in one sitting, this is known as binge drinking.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 61 million people engaged in binge drinking in 2022.[1]

It is most common for young adults and college students to engage in binge drinking. This is largely due to the culture of drinking among young people. If you are a young adult, you are most likely drinking to get drunk, rather than relaxing with a couple of glasses of wine.

While it might seem natural to binge drink at college parties, it can actually be incredibly dangerous. The effects of binge drinking increase the risk of injuries, risky behaviors, alcohol poisoning, and even the development of alcoholism or long-term health problems.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What binge drinking is
  • What are the short and long-term risks of binge drinking
  • How binge drinking can lead to alcoholism and chronic health effects

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is considered a type of excessive alcohol consumption. According to the CDC, binge drinking is defined as a woman having 4 or more drinks or a man having 5 or more drinks on a single occasion.[2] Unfortunately, many people engage in this type of drinking when they go out to bars, attend parties, or dance at nightclubs.

Young adults are at the highest risk of binge drinking, with 29.5% of people aged 18 to 25 engaging in this type of alcohol consumption.[1] Binge drinking can lead to numerous health risks, including chronic health conditions, alcohol overdose, and the development of an alcohol use disorder.

What are the Risks of Binge Drinking?

While alcohol use is normalized in the United States, consuming it excessively can lead to several physical and mental health concerns. In fact, the CDC reports that “excessive alcohol use is associated with about 178,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.”[2]

Knowing the risks of binge drinking can motivate you to drink alcohol more responsibly. The main dangers of excessive alcohol use include:

Injuries

Binge drinking can lead to fatal injuries for a couple of reasons. First, drinking alcohol lowers your inhibitions, making you more likely to engage in risky behavior. Additionally, alcohol can impair your balance and coordination, making you more prone to accidents and injuries.

Binge drinkers have a greater risk of:[3]

  • Fatal vehicle accidents
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Unsafe sex and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Falls and drownings
  • Violence such as homicide, suicide, and intimate partner violence

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is another term for an alcohol overdose and occurs when someone engages in binge drinking. If you develop alcohol poisoning, you will require emergency medical treatment, as it slows your breathing and heart rate to dangerous levels.[4] Without medical assistance, an alcohol overdose can lead to brain damage or death.

The signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Seizures
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Mental confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Pale skin
  • Slowed breathing rate
  • Not responding to stimuli

Alcohol Use Disorder

If you frequently engage in binge drinking, you could develop an alcohol use disorder. This condition causes you to be unable to control your alcohol intake, experience uncontrollable urges to drink, and develop a physical alcohol dependence. If you are addicted to alcohol, you will experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking.

The main signs of an alcohol use disorder include:[5]

  • Being unable to complete responsibilities at home, school, or work
  • Drinking in risky situations
  • Continuing drinking despite facing physical or mental health issues
  • Experiencing cravings to consume alcohol
  • Having a hard time controlling how much you drink once you start
  • Needing to increase the amount you drink to experience an effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking

If you develop alcoholism, you must receive professional treatment. Alcohol rehab programs can offer the tools and support you need to overcome an alcohol use disorder and regain control over your life.

Chronic Conditions

Lastly, binge drinking can lead to long-term effects like the development of chronic health conditions.

For example, you could develop:[6]

  • High blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke
  • Gastrointestinal and digestive conditions
  • Weakened immune systems and increased infections or illnesses
  • Various cancers
  • Learning and memory conditions like dementia
  • Mental health issues like anxiety or depression
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

Find Help for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

If you or a loved one frequently binge drinks, it’s time to consider treatment. Alcohol rehab programs can offer you the services you need to recover, such as medical detox and evidence-based behavioral therapies.

At New Jersey Interventions, we can connect you with a top-rated alcohol rehab center in your area. Contact us today to get started.

References:

  1. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Understanding Binge Drinking 
  2. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): What is Excessive Drinking
  3. University of Rochester Medical Center: College Students and the Dangers of Binge Drinking
  4. Emedicine.medscape.com: Alcohol Toxicity 
  5. RAND.org: Diagnostic Criteria Checklist: Alcohol Use Disorder
  6. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Alcohol Use and Your Health

Medically Reviewed: July 4, 2024

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

About

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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