Futures Recovery

What is Binge Drinking? (And Does it Indicate a More Serious Problem?)

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Binge drinking is often equated with being in college or in your young adult years. From frat parties and sorority mixers to finally becoming ‘of age’ and frequenting bars, binge drinking has become widely accepted as the ‘norm’ for certain stages in life. However, binge drinking is not only dangerous, it can also signal a more serious problem with alcohol. 

Binge drinking is defined by the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA) as a pattern of consuming alcohol that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or higher. 

For most adults, this equals about five or more drinks in a two-hour period for men, and four drinks in the same time period for women. Clearly, this can vary based on different individual factors such as weight and size.  The NIAAA goes on to define the amounts of alcohol consumed that define binge drinking for youth. For boys, it is between three and five drinks, and for girls three drinks—again dependent on size. 

No matter which gender or age group, binge drinking can cause serious problems. And, what’s more, binge drinking is by no means limited to the younger age groups. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that one in six adults in the United States binge drinks about four times per month consuming around seven drinks each time. 

Let’s take a look at some other statistics related to binge drinking that may surprise you: 

  • Binge drinking is most common amongst young adults 18 to 34 years of age
  • Half of all binge drinkers are 35 years of age and older
  • Men are twice as likely to be binge drinkers as women 
  • Households with income levels of $75,000 or higher annually are more likely to have binge drinkers
  • Households with higher education levels report more binge drinking
  • Binge drinking is growing amongst older adults with more than 10 percent of U.S. adults over the age of 65 reporting binge drinking in the past month
  • Women also report an increase in binge drinking 

When it comes to binge drinking many people have thought of it as limited to the younger age groups and almost as a rite of passage for becoming an adult. However, as data indicates this isn’t really the case. Many of these young binge drinkers are continuing the pattern into adulthood. Some of these individuals will develop an alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

Futures Recovery Healthcare offers comprehensive, evidence-based treatment for mature young adults and adults with AUDs. Offering three substance abuse treatment programs, Core, Orenda, and Rise, there is a variety of programming options to meet individuals’ specific needs when it comes to addiction treatment options. If you or someone you love has a binge drinking pattern, seeking help earlier than later is suggested. 

Binge Drinking and Health

One of the biggest concerns when it comes to binge drinking is the impact it has on one’s health. The CDC reports that there are 2,200 preventable deaths annually as a result of alcohol poisoning. These are deaths that could be avoided if binge drinking didn’t occur. 

There are numerous other short and long-term health consequences from binge drinking and heavy drinking. Let’s take a look at some of the more common ones occurring during binge drinking: 

  • Accidental injuries such as slips and falls, car accidents, drownings, suicide, burns, and alcohol poisoning
  • Sexual assault, intimate partner violence, homicides, and other acts of violence
  • Sexually transmitted diseases 
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Blackouts

For young people, the statistics associated with immediate and serious consequences of binge drinking are of great concern. The NIAAA reports that underage drinking plays a role in thousands of deaths of young people under the age of 21 years in the U.S each year. Some of these include fatalities from:

  • Motor vehicle accidents (more than 1,000 annually)
  • Homicides (about 1,000 annually)
  • Accidental death from overdose, falls, drowning, etc (more than 200 annually)
  • Suicide (nearly 600 annually)

These are all deaths of youth that are largely preventable. 

As mentioned, many people associate binge drinking with high school and college students. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 33% of all college students reported binge drinking in the last month. The statistics surrounding college students and immediate health consequences are just as concerning. These include: 

  • More than 1,500 college students die each year from alcohol-related accidents 
  • Each year nearly 700,000 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 report being assaulted by another student who is drinking
  • Nearly 100,000 students in the same age range report alcohol-related rape 

It’s essential that young people are educated about the dangerous impacts of binge drinking. Not only does it increase the chances of fatality but also increases the chance of many life-altering events occurring. 

For many, binge drinking during youth and college years will subside as individuals mature and go on to become responsible, healthy adults. However, for some, binge drinking will continue and become an AUD. And as binge drinking continues, it can become heavy drinking, alcoholic drinking, and even high-intensity drinking. 

High-intensity drinking is defined by the NIAAA as alcohol intake at twice the rate of binge drinking. This equates to about eight or more drinks for females and 10 or more drinks for males during one occasion. Research indicates that this dangerous drinking pattern is most common amongst college-aged individuals. 

As drinking continues, whether it is binge drinking, heavy drinking, or high-intensity drinking, the risk for serious, long-term health consequences grows. As mentioned, the rate of binge drinking amongst both older adults (65 years of age and older) and women is growing. This is of particular concern for both groups. Older adults are generally on a number of prescription medications that could have serious and adverse health impacts when combined with alcohol. 

For women, research shows that the risk for more serious health problems from alcohol consumption—particularly heavy drinking and binge drinking—is greater than for males. These trends in increased binge drinking amongst both women and older adults are of great concern. 

Long-term Health Problems from Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S following smoking as the first and poor diet and inactivity as the second. And while many think of the immediate effects of alcohol, the long-term health consequences of alcohol can be deadly as well. 

According to the NIAAA, between 2011 and 2015, the top alcohol-attributed deaths from chronic disease in the U.S. were as follows:

  • Alcohol-associated liver disease
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Liver cancer
  • Upper digestive tract cancers
  • Breast cancer
  • Hypertension
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Sudden infant death syndrome

In addition to these devastating health issues, there are other health concerns associated with excessive alcohol consumption:

  • Learning issues
  • Memory loss
  • Attention issues
  • Cognitive issues

As you can see, the list of health problems—many very serious—associated with excessive alcohol consumption is daunting. However, the good news is that once drinking either stops or is significantly cut down, the body often begins to heal. And miracles can happen.

When it comes to binge drinking and high-intensity drinking there is some reason for concern. Participating in binge drinking doesn’t mean that the individual is destined to develop an AUD, however, it can be a warning sign. It’s important to take a comprehensive look at drinking habits and patterns not just if a person engages in binge drinking or not. 

If you or a loved one is stuck in a pattern of binge drinking, high-intensity drinking, or concerned about your alcohol consumption Futures can help. The first, and often most difficult, step is reaching out for help. Inpatient treatment for AUD is usually the best option when possible. 

At Futures, our compassionate, experienced staff understand (some firsthand) how difficult asking for help can be. Many who struggle with alcohol issues want to be able to fix it themselves. Oftentimes those with an AUD or substance use disorder (SUD) try to rely on their own willpower or resources to either stop or cut down drinking. However, for most who have crossed over into an AUD, this simply doesn’t work. 

However, addiction treatment programs can work—if you find the right one for you. Treatment programs that utilize evidence-based programming have helped thousands upon thousands of people just like you get the help they need to start their journey of recovery. 

And while in the midst of addiction, any kind of life beyond addiction may seem unattainable, many who have been exactly where you are have gone on to find help, hope, and a life they only dared to dream about before.

Living with an AUD, SUD or any type of addiction is painful, lonely, and scary. It’s important to remember you aren’t alone. Whether you are struggling yourself or are concerned about a loved one, there are others just like you who have found help, hope, and a better life free from the bonds of addiction. 

If you want to get help now or want to learn more about Futures’ treatment programs contact us confidentially online or call 866-804-2098

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