The Long-Term Effects of Binge Drinking
Binge drinking is a prevalent occurrence in the United States. Further, binge drinking does not have to be associated with a substance use disorder that harms your body and brain. However, if you are a frequent binge drinker, you can develop health problems. Consuming five or more drinks within two hours is considered binge drinking. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 37 million binge drinkers have about one binge drink episode per week and consume about seven beverages each time.
Binge drinking can cause severe damage to your body, including psychological and physical, even after only one episode of over-consumption. Additionally, continued substance use on a weekly or monthly basis can create long-term mental and physical health ailments. Let’s take a look at what defines binge drinking, how it affects long-term damage to your overall health and wellbeing, and how you can work to overcome your impulse to binge drink.
Why Does Binge Drinking Occur?
You might drink as a coping mechanism to alleviate emotional problems and stress. Or, you might drink because you associate drinking with social events and having fun. However, when you begin to associate alcohol with fun gatherings, you risk making alcohol the “fun factor” and might not be able to socialize without it. Other popular reasons to participate in binge drinking include:
- Trying to feel good
- Becoming intoxicated
- Alleviate stress and anxiety
Further, it might become easier to binge drink when the peers around you are participating in the same behavior. Your environment can consequently lead to your willingness to drink heavy amounts more frequently.
What Happens When You Drink?
The effects of alcohol begin within 5 to 10 minutes of having a drink. Further, approximately 90 percent of the alcohol in your blood gets processed through the liver. The rest is processed through the lungs, kidneys, or in sweat. On average, the liver is only capable of breaking down one drink per hour. Consuming more alcohol than your liver can process will increase your blood alcohol content (BAC) and its effects on your body. Other factors that also influence your BAC depends on:
- How quickly you drink
- Your nutrition
- Your body type
Such contributing factors can become a risk to your health, no matter if you consistently binge drink or only binge drink one time. You can create lasting effects on your health from even one binge drinking session. Further, most alcohol-related deaths are related to acute intoxication.
Long-term binge drinking leads to long-term ailments. Consistent alcohol use increases the risk of several cancers including, liver, mouth, throat, and colon. Additionally, heavy long-term alcohol use can also lead to alcoholic liver disease, including inflammation of the liver and cirrhosis. Excessive drinking also damages the heart and cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat. Long-term effects of binge drinking could also lead to:
- Blood and immune system disorders such as anemia, low platelets, and suppressed immune system.
- Heavy long-term use can interfere with the absorption of calcium and bone formation, creating weaker bones more susceptible to fractures.
- Heavy use can interfere with the absorption of vitamins and other nutrients in your gut, leading to malnutrition.
Brain Function and Mental Health
Alcohol not only affects the physical body, but it affects your mental well-being too. When you drink heavily, you create hormonal imbalances within different regions of your brain responsible for regulating and influencing moods. Since alcohol creates chemical imbalances within the brain, heavy drinking can make you more prone to developing mental health issues associated with mood, stress, anxiety, and depression.
When you drink, you put yourself at a high risk of having negative thoughts and behaviors that can harm you mentally and physically. When you experience such negative thoughts, you might want to turn to drink more often to cope, and over time this can lead to developing an addiction.
Creates Substance Use Disorders
Binge drinking on a consistent basis can be a characteristic of a substance use disorder. While there are mild, moderate, and severe cases of this disease, alcohol use disorders are commonly characterized by drinking more or longer than intended. They also include getting sick each time you drink or getting into situations where you put yourself or others at risk. If you are participating in more risky behaviors when you drink, experience cravings, or are thinking about the next time you will have a drink, these are all warning signs that you are developing a substance use disorder.
Working to curb your impulses and cravings to overcome your binge drinking takes effort; however, you can implement healthy practices that create positive habits to help. At Choice House, we utilize various treatments and therapies to provide you with the opportunity and education to learn about how alcohol affects you on a personal and professional level. Our primary goal is to make sure your individual needs are met so that you have the best chance and resources in care. We focus on men’s health and are qualified to address their needs from an appropriate and motivating standpoint. We also provide group, individual, and family therapy to ensure that you have the best access to support, communication, and community. If you are binge drinking or developing an alcohol use dependence, then the time to get help is now. Find out more by reaching out to Choice House today by calling (720) 577-4422.