People have different relationships with alcohol and that relationship can change over time. For instance, one person might have a glass of wine with dinner and not think about alcohol all night. Another person might have one drink, which may be the beginning to a night full of binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as drinking four or more drinks during one event for females, and for males, binge drinking is consuming five or more drinks. The quantity of alcohol consumed in a short amount of time may point to a developing addiction.
In fact, experts have broken down alcohol use into four categories: experimentation, social use, binge drinking, and substance abuse/addiction. Obviously, experimentation with alcohol may be born out of curiosity. A person might have a drink one night and realize that alcohol doesn’t work well for them. However, someone who chooses to continue drinking after experimentation might do so for social reasons, especially if his or her friends enjoy drinking as well. The third stage, binge drinking, already indicates the abuse of alcohol. However, binge drinking can sometimes be overlooked because a person might binge drink only one or two nights per week. Nonetheless, binge drinking does come with its own risks and consequences, just like addiction.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 38 million people binge drink approximately 4 times per month and consume 8 drinks in one drinking period. This sort of heavy drinking on a regular basis can come with severe consequences. For instance, regular binge drinking can affect a person’s physical as well as psychological well being. For instance, long-term alcohol consumption can cause impotence, irregular menstrual cycles, pancreatitis, stroke, confusion, and amnesia. Heavy drinking can affect coordination, thiamine deficiency, and other severe forms of poor nutrition. In fact, ongoing heavy drinking can affect nearly every organ in the body, especially the liver.
In addition to physical concerns, there are also psychological effects of binge drinking. Heavy alcohol consumption affects the stability of the mind. For instance, those who are successful in suicide attempts tend to have positive alcohol levels in their blood stream. Furthermore, heavy drinking can include risky behavior, such as fast or reckless driving, poor decision-making, sexual activity, and the risk of pregnancy. There is also the danger of developing an addiction, a chemical dependency to alcohol, which is the fourth category of alcohol use mentioned above. Yet, clearly, a person does not need to have an addiction to alcohol to experience its damaging effects.
If you or someone you know is binge drinking on a regular basis, there may be dangers of developing an addiction. A chemical dependency to alcohol can affect the brain in ways that can makes a person feel they need to continue to drink alcohol even if they wanted to stop. With more and more alcohol consumption, the body and the brain may develop a tolerance, which means that a person needs more alcohol to get drunk. Furthermore, a person might begin to experience withdrawal symptoms when he or she is not drinking, which indicates that a dependence to alcohol has developed. Lastly, the compulsive need to drink even if a person doesn’t want to drink clearly indicates that there is an addiction to alcohol. And binge drinking can very easily make someone vulnerable to the illness of addiction.
If you or someone you know is binge drinking on a regular basis, contact a mental health professional for support, particularly to avoid developing an addiction.
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