The damage from weekly binge drinking: is it common?
Do you binge on alcohol on a regular basis? If so, you certainly aren’t alone — a study by the CDC suggests that 38 million people over the age of 21 binge weekly on alcohol. Many people who do binge, however, have a hard time admitting it to themselves. Apart from their binge drinking, they often don’t even need to touch alcohol over the week; it gives them confidence. They tend to believe that they must be okay even if they tend to down a couple of bottles over the weekend. It’s terrible logic, however, if you look at the damage from weekly binge drinking that occurs. In many ways, it’s far worse than drinking regular quantities of alcohol each day.
What exactly qualifies as binge drinking behavior? The NIAAA has a definition: if your drinking raises your blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 g/dL, it means your drinking habit qualifies. If you’re a man, you can usually get to this level with 5 drinks downed over two hours (4 if you’re a woman). If you do this kind of drinking at least twice a month, you are a binge drinker (according to the Psychology of Addictive Behavior journal).
Many people will indulge in just such drinking, but see themselves as safe because they don’t feel intoxicated. Intoxication, however, is not a part of the definition — it’s possible to indulge in binge drinking daily or weekly without feeling drunk. It’s important to understand that there’s no need to put too fine a point on it — if you like to go on benders, where you drink large quantities of alcohol in short periods of time, you should at least consider yourself at risk.
Is binge drinking really bad for the health?
While binge drinking is seen among those over 30, it is predominantly an activity seen among those under the age of 25.
It is often hard to make a persuasive point with young people by referring to the possible health damage possible down the line. Bringing up the possibility of alcoholism later in life, increased risk of high blood pressure, or inflammation of the vital organs, usually simply doesn’t make much sense to them. Pointing to the possibility of immediate brain damage, on the other hand, can make a very effective point.
While drinking is legal past the age of 21, the human brain, in most cases, develops until age 25. The developing brain tends to be at far greater risk of damage than the brain fully developed.
When the brain in development is exposed to alcohol, there can be loss of matter in the cerebral cortex, the area responsible for cognition. The frontal lobes, the areas that control decision-making and idea formation, see damage, as well. Memory retention by the hippocampus is also affected.
While alcohol kills brain cells at any age, the effect tends to be particularly pronounced in those under the age of 25.
There are many other areas affected
Not every part of the brain governs cognition, decision-making or memory. The medulla controls body temperature; the hypothalamus controls heart rate and bladder function and so on. Alcohol damage can cause disruption to each one of these functions.
It’s your life
Countless reports of sexual assault on college campuses involve references to binge drinking activity. Perpetrators suffer from loss of inhibition through the effects of alcohol on parts of the brain that deal with inhibition. Victims suffer for reason of the blackouts that occur with binge drinking.
Find help today
If you’ve tried to stop binge drinking, but haven’t been able to keep your resolve for very long, it’s possible you that you are beginning to suffer the effects of addiction. It’s important to understand that addiction is a mental disorder caused by alcohol. It isn’t your fault that you aren’t able to will yourself to stay clean; it’s in the nature of the disorder.
If this is you, you should look up an evidence-based alcohol rehab close to you. You can seek help both for binge drinking liver recovery and for addiction care. The website of Better Addiction Care, with its in-depth database of detailed information on rehabs, can offer excellent guidance. Call 1.800.429.7690 to speak to an addiction specialist who can answer all your questions and help you find a treatment program that is right for you.