Here at Cassiobury Court, we’re deeply involved in helping ‘problem drinkers’ successfully complete the path to sobriety. Our team works tirelessly to help our clients survive their addiction to this legal but potentially deadly drug.
But like all nightmares, this tale of woe has its origin in much more innocent settings. Nobody ‘intends’ on developing an addiction to alcohol and it is all too often for mere ‘binge drinkers’ to go on and develop alcoholism.
For this very reason, we’ve written this handy guide to binge drinking with the aim of educating our readers on what is the slippery slope into alcoholism.
Alcoholchange.org.uk state that “in England, there are an estimated 586,780 dependent drinkers. Only 18% are receiving treatment”. This is a very worrying statistic, although for us, it’s sadly not surprising.
Many people who have an alcohol addiction or who are drinking out of control are typically in denial about their condition which makes it even harder to offer them support. It’s not uncommon to see people who are suffering, downplay the effects of binge drinking and pretend like everything’s fine, whereas in reality, they require urgent professional help to avoid permanent damage.
Excessive alcohol consumption is typically associated with liver damage. Whilst this is very true, alcohol is actually a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions including mouth, throat, stomach, liver, and breast cancers, high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver, and depression.
Definition of Binge Drinking
Binge drinking, or ‘Heavy Episodic Drinking’ usually refers to drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk. It has also come to be defined in the United Kingdom as consuming twice the daily recommended number of units of alcohol as that recommended by various health authorities and the Government.
If you’re a man this means you’re a ‘binge drinker’ if you consume in excess of 6-8 units in one drinking session and 4-6 if you’re a woman.
By way of contrast, if you’re in North America ‘binge drinking’ is defined as drinking more than five alcoholic beverages if you’re a man and drinking more than four alcoholic beverages if you’re a woman (known colloquially as the ‘5/4 rule’). Currently, no international definition exists for the concept of ‘binge drinking’.
The UK and US definitions alike are not most people’s concept ‘binge drinking’. For most the term pulls up visions of Charlie Sheen-esque ‘benders’ lasting several days. Unfortunately (for some at least) the bar as to the volume of alcohol you must consume in order to be ‘on a binge’ is considerably lower.
Put simply, if you drink more than twice your daily recommended quantity of alcohol units you are putting your health at risk – something we shall be discussing below. If you plan to drink four ‘tinnies’ on a Saturday night, you’re bingeing. If you’re planning on sipping down four glasses of wine this Friday evening, you’ve earned the unfortunate title of ‘binge drinker’.
Health effects of Binge Drinking
Most self-identified binge drinkers view themselves as invincible when it comes to their drinking. The rationale being that their excessive drinking habit is something they’ll only do ‘now and again’ and so their drinking cannot cause them any long-term health problems.
However, studies have attributed a whole host of unpleasant long-term health problems brought on by binge drinking. Such health problems include but are not limited to:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Alcohol poisoning
- Increased risk of suicide
- Increased risk of pregnancy and contracting sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV)
- Heightened risk of developing alcoholism
- Liver disease
- Metabolic syndrome (particularly if you’re under 19)
- Foetal alcohol syndrome if you drink during pregnancy
- Increased risk of accidents, particularly road traffic accidents
To prevent the onset of the above negative health risks it is advisable for you to keep within the daily recommended number of units of alcohol. You could drink more slowly, drink with food, alternate water, or non-alcoholic drinks with alcohol, plan ahead to avoid problems such as making sure you can get home safely. All of the above will help you to reduce your risk of binge drinking.
‘Binge drinking’ is, at least in Europe, a rather peculiar and unique aspect of British culture. We are perhaps best advised to look on to the example set by our counterparts in France and Italy who drink less than us in one sitting but drink more frequently.
This pattern of drinking has in fact been proved to bestow the drinker with positive health effects.
Why teens should avoid Binge Drinking
Binge drinking is also associated with short-term impairment of mental processes used to carry out even the simplest of day-to-day tasks, especially for drinkers who are under the age of 30.
If you’re under the age of 15 your binge drinking can have lasting ramifications on your mental health. In fact, studies have shown teenagers who binge drink exhibit many of the same cognitive impairments as displayed by chronic alcoholics.
Worryingly, in 2018 in England, 44% of pupils aged 11-15 reported having ever drunk alcohol. Of these, 14% of 11-year-olds reporting ever having drunk an alcoholic drink, compared to 70% of 15 year olds. Alcoholchange.org.uk go on to state that “in 2016, 23% of 15 year olds reported having been drunk in the last four weeks”.
It’s also been shown that binge drinking affects the thickness of the brain’s pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain utilised in helping you make safe and rational decisions, controlling impulses and paying attention.
The more you drink and the younger you are the more the brain is affected. It’s essential that we raise awareness of binge drinking and the support that’s available for those who need it.