The Dangers of Binge Drinking
Alcohol Consumption in the United States
In 2019, almost 66% of Americans enjoyed at least one drink over the course of the year and almost 50% of Americans considered themselves to be regular drinkers. But what happens when a person’s alcohol consumption becomes excessive?
What is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or higher. For a typical adult male, this means consuming 5 or more drinks in a 2 hour period. For women, the number of drinks drops to 4 in a 2 hour period. Binge drinking on 5 or more days over a 30 day period is considered heavy alcohol use.
The risks of binge drinking
If you or a loved one has engaged in heavy alcohol use, you are not alone. Over 16 million Americans engaged in heavy alcohol use this past year, leading to almost 100,000 deaths, over 1 million emergency room visits, and over 1.5 million arrests for alcohol related incidents. In addition to these consequences, heavy drinking can also lead to numerous health risks such as:
High blood pressure
Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon
Learning and memory problems
and Social problems.
The Effects of Binge Drinking on Family Members
Binge drinking can cause poor job performance or even termination, an abdication of parental duties such as caregiving or emotional support, and can even lead to abuse, both physical and otherwise. In fact, alcohol use is a factor in almost 70% of all domestic altercations. Heavy alcohol use by one member of a household has been shown to impact the emotional, financial, social, and even the physical wellbeing of every member of the household, especially if the person drinking is a parent or guardian. The psychological effects of having a parent with an Alcohol Use Disorder are lifelong and can lead to trust issues, approval seeking behaviors, and an inability to establish a sense of normalcy. Furthermore, teens from homes in which a parent is a heavy drinker are 4 times more likely to develop an Alcohol Use Disorder.
Teens and Binge Drinking
Unfortunately, teens are more likely to binge drink even with healthy behaviors being modeled at home. 90% of the time, when teens choose to drink they do so by binge drinking. In 2019, over 4.2 million teens reported binge drinking at least once in the past month and 825,000 young people reported binge drinking 5 or more times in the past month. Of these young people, teenage girls were about 10% more likely than boys to have consumed alcohol through binge drinking.
The top 3 reasons teens give for binge drinking are:
Increased independence, or the desire for it
Heavy alcohol use among adolescents not only leads to imparied judgement, injuries, or death, it also can affect both brain structure and development, leading to learning disabilities and an increased vulnerability to alcohol use disorder. As children get older, it is only natural for them to want to assert their independence, take risks, or try new challenges, however most teens never fully understand the risks associated with heavy alcohol use on their health and behavior.
How to Find Help
If you are concerned you (or a loved one) have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, help is just one phone call away. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (or SAMHSA) offers a 24 hour helpline to refer you to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. You can call 1-800-662-HELP(4357) at any time to speak to a counselor and start the path to a healthier relationship with alcohol. MADD.org is another great resource for those looking to join the fight in preventing underage drinking or drunk driving.
You can also visit TheHubCT.org/alcohol to find local resources such as free support groups, family services, alcohol treatment facilities and more. Download our newly updated resource guides, take our online screening to better assess your concerns or download our peer support group guide to find local support groups. The Hub CT wants you to remember that whether you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol use disorder, you don’t have to go through this alone.