What Is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is defined as having 4 (for women) to 5 (for males) or more drinks within a 2-hour period, or 8 or more drinks for women weekly, and 15 for men weekly. Binge drinking is a widespread and common problem in the United States and across the world, characterized by an excess of alcohol consumption. Annually, over 38 million Americans struggle with binge drinking, leading to 88,000 binge-drinking-related deaths in the United States alone.
Binge drinking can bring the blood alcohol level dangerously high, 0.08 (the legal limit in most of the United States) or above. Binge drinking also contributes to bad decision making and high risk behavior such as drinking and driving.
Binge drinking is not the same as alcoholism or alcohol dependency. However, it does create problems and has many risks involved.
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College and Binge Drinking
Although binge drinking is far from limited to college students, the two are very closely associated. Up to 70% of college students consume alcohol in large amounts. In some studies, 40% of college students admitted to binge drinking.
Some college students find solace in binge drinking, as they struggle to deal with stressors of daily college life and peer pressure. An additional reason for college-aged binge drinking is the carefree and party lifestyle many college students partake in, with little regard for health consequences. The many long-term health risks, however, outweigh the short-term excitement. College binge drinking can lead to a lifetime of problems, as the younger a drinker is, the more likely they are to transition into alcoholism later on.
College binge drinking creates risks for the entire student body. On college campuses, many women report men behaving in a sexually aggressive manner when under the influence of alcohol. Sixty-seven percent of male aggressors were drinking at a time of sexual assault or other forms of victimization. Students who binge drink are more likely to behave in aggressive ways, damage property on college campuses, and miss classes.
The Dangers of Binge Drinking
Here are some of the short and long-term consequences of binge drinkers:
- Drinking and driving
- Transition into alcoholism
- Impulsive behavior
- Violent behavior
- Sexually aggressive behavior
- Higher risk of being a victim of many crimes
- Brain chemistry alteration
- Liver damage
- Mood swings
- Depression and anxiety
- Impaired judgment and decision-making skills
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Higher risk of breast cancer in women
- Alcohol poisoning and death
Who Is Most at Risk for Binge Drinking
Males between the ages of 18 to 24 are the most common binge drinkers. Among college students, binge drinking rates are highest among individuals of Caucasian descent, followed by Native Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians, and African-Americans. Students involved in sorority and fraternity groups report higher percentages of binge drinking. Outside of college campuses, people found in lower socio-economic statuses reported higher rates of binge drinking.
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Binge Drinking Prevention
Many college campuses provide alcohol awareness and treatment programs to help students struggling with binge drinking. Additionally, there are sponsored alcohol awareness programs to spread awareness of binge drinking. Many programs offer students useful behavioral skills needed to monitor drinking consumption. Students involved in these programs continued to binge drink at lower rates than other students. Many colleges also offer alcohol-free parties and alcohol counseling services for students.
On a personal level, admitting you have a problem is central to finding a resolution, as denial is often a root cause for some binge drinkers. Self-control is key in ensuring drinks are enjoyed in a responsible manner. Self-care protocols, such as eating properly and drinking on a full stomach, will help binge drinkers from getting dangerously intoxicated.
There are many tools that help reduce binge drinkers’ consumption, including counseling, therapy, and spiritual treatments. Thousands of rehabilitation centers across the country assist binge drinkers with recovery. Inpatient and outpatient centers are available to prevent binge drinkers from transitioning into full alcoholism before it is too late. Patients can discover the root cause of their binge drinking, especially if there are other underlying concerns, such as co-occurring mental disorders. Detox programs are also offered as treatment and can take up to a week to complete. If you are impacted by binge drinking, you owe it to yourself to be proactive and get the help you need now. Contact a dedicated treatment specialist for more information.
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