The Dangers of Binge Drinking

Sandy Tschosik, RN 
St. Alexius’ Community Health Services Coordinator

The Dangers of Binge DrinkingAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking is a nationwide problem and a serious public health issue. Binge drinking can be defined as consuming five or more alcoholic beverages for men or four or more alcoholic beverages for women, during a single drinking session.  One in six American adults binge drink on average four times a month, and the largest average number of drinks per binge is eight.  Among all states, North Dakota consistently ranks high in binge drinking among both adults and high school students. According to 2011 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), North Dakota had the third highest binge drinking rate in the United States.  Additionally, more than 90 percent of the alcohol youth consume is during binge drinking.

Heavy drinking, including binge drinking, is risky behavior.  It is associated with the following:

  • Unintentional injuries (motor vehicle accidents, falls, drowning)
  • Violence against others (sexual assault, shootings, domestic violence)
  • Unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome and sudden infant death syndrome
  • Cardiovascular diseases (high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure)
  • Liver disease
  • Poor control of diabetes
  • Neurological damage  (attention and memory problems, impaired decision making)
  • Pancreatitis
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Alcohol dependency and withdrawal symptoms (trembling, sweating, irritability, insomnia)

So what can you do to help address and prevent this issue?

  • Lead by example and chose not to binge drink. If you are going to consume alcohol, do so wisely and in moderation or not at all – up to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Examples of one drink include: 12 oz of regular beer, 5 oz of wine or 1.5 oz of 80 - proof hard liquor.
  • Drink slowly - Alcohol is quickly absorbed by the body and takes longer for the body to get rid of it.  Alcohol is metabolized by the liver.  It takes the liver one hour to metabolize the alcohol in just one drink. Therefore, consuming more than one drink an hour overwhelms the liver which can cause blood alcohol levels to rise quicker.  Know your limit. After you have had a couple, switch to a non-alcoholic beverage.
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach.  Food helps to slow the rate of alcohol absorption.
  • Talk to your children.  They need to know about the dangers of alcohol misuse and binge drinking.
  • Support the minimum legal drinking age.
  • NEVER drink and drive.  Have a designated driver or take a taxi.
  • Do NOT consume alcohol if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, if you are on medication that can interact with alcohol, if you have been diagnosed with alcoholism or if you are under the legal age limit.

If drinking is causing health, work or social/family problems, talk to your healthcare provider or counselor.