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December 6th, 2018


Dangers of Binge Drinking

What Is Binge Drinking?

Binging means men drinking 5 or more alcoholic drinks or women drinking 4 or more alcoholic drinks within a 2-hour  time period.  A “drink” is considered to be 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce of 80-proof liquor.

Most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent.

 

Prevalence of Binging

Binge drinking is more common among young adults aged 18-34.

1 in 5 high school girls binge drink.

About 90% of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.

 

Consequences of Binging

The most obvious consequences of binging are injuries resulting from impaired judgment or impaired reflexes and reaction time.  Impact injuries result from car crashes and falls. Exposure injuries include burns, drowning, and cold exposure.

Binge drinking is especially dangerous in combination with cold exposure.  First, it impairs judgment so that the dangers of hypothermia are not readily appreciated.  Second, alcohol dilates the peripheral blood vessels so that heat is lost from the body at an accelerated rate.  This unfortunate combination has resulted in three recent regional fatalities.

Additionally, incapacitation produced by alcohol renders bingers prone to victimization.  Bingers may find themselves the targets of sexual assault, robbery, and other violent crime.

Further dangers to the binge drinker include alcohol poisoning, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted disease.

A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health compared frequent bingers with non-bingers and found the following behavior differences:

  • Missed Classes: 62% vs. 9%
  • Unplanned Sexual Activity: 42% vs. 8%
  • Unprotected Sex: 22% vs. 4%
  • Forgot Past Actions: 55% vs. 9%
  • Actions Later Regretted: 62% vs. 16%
  • Police Involvement: 13% vs. 2%
  • Injury: 26% vs. 3%
  • Drove after Drinking: 69% vs. 22%
  • Rode with Drunk Driver: 53% vs. 10%

 

Binge Drinking Precautions 

Binge drinking does not have to be part of the socialization culture.  The culture can change if individuals behave responsibly and follow a few suggestions:

  • Understand what a standard drink is and that sizes commonly served may be larger than a standard drink. 
  • Plan ahead. Set a limit to alcohol consumption and stick to it.
  • Alternate between alcoholic drinks and water.  This reduces the amount of alcohol consumed, maintains hydration, and reduces the rate of alcohol absorption. 
  • Always have a designated driver.
  • Eat before and during drinking to slow alcohol absorption.
  • Avoid all types of drinking contests or games.
  • When going out, stick with friends who share a similar outlook on binge drinking and avoidance of risk taking.  Look out for one another.
  • Avoid drinking quickly so that you don’t miss your body’s signals telling you how intoxicated it is becoming.
  • Don’t set drinks down.  Retaining them in your hand reduces the risk of drink tampering.
  • Avoid drinking from pitchers and punch bowls.  It is easy to tamper with their contents and difficult to estimate the amount of alcohol being consumed from them.  
  • It is okay not to drink!  Ask for a soda or water instead of an alcoholic beverage.

 

Conclusion

Every life lost or irretrievably changed by binge drinking is a tragedy that no family has to endure.  The Erie County Medical Society strongly supports individual and community efforts to change the behavior and culture of binge drinking on college campuses and elsewhere in our society.

 

Thomas Falasca, DO

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