Having the occasional drink with family or friends can be an enjoyable experience, but when it becomes excessive, your life could be at risk.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or above. This typically occurs when men consume five or more drinks or women consume four or more drinks in about a two-hour timeframe. Alcohol content varies depending on if you are drinking hard liquor, wine, or beer. The ever increasing popularity of craft beer has made binge drinking even harder to recognize. This is because some craft beers are brewed with higher alcohol content and can range from 4 percent up to nearly 20 percent alcohol depending on the type of beer. So, if you had one 12-ounce glass of a beer at 20 percent, that would be equivalent to just about four standard drinks.
It remains important to note that most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent, but continual indulgence in binge drinking can lead a person to alcohol dependence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that more than 38 million U.S. adults binge drink and do so about four times a month. The age group associated with the most binge drinkers is between ages 18-34.
Binge drinking has been associated with unintentional harm and injuries from car accidents, falls, burns, and alcohol poisoning. Due to the altered state of mind, those who binge drink can fall victim to suicide, violence from their partner, and sexual assault.
When considering the long-term effects, binge drinking has been linked to cancer and an increased risk of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease.
If you or someone you know wants to stop binge drinking, here are some tips:
- Set limits – If you can’t fully abstain from alcohol, set some limits. You might only drink on certain days, only drink during certain times of the day, or avoid certain types of alcohol.
- Consider abstinence – Some people find it more manageable to quit alcohol completely instead of limiting occasional drinking. Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART recovery can help.
- Find alternatives for coping – Some people find that alcohol helps them cope with negative feelings of stress, depression, anxiety, or boredom. Instead, consider alternatives such as: frequent exercise, eating healthy, or yoga to help relieve your stress.
- Consider medication – In some instances, medication may be necessary to help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Talk to your primary care physician if you think this would help you.
If you suspect that a friend or loved one is dangerously intoxicated, and are worried about their safety, call 911 immediately. If you have any questions about alcohol or symptoms of intoxication, call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222, and a specially trained pharmacist or nurse will be happy to answer your questions.
Bendita Bakarr and Marcus Opraseuth are Pharm.D candidates at Temple University School of Pharmacy.