Binge Drinking Alcohol- An American Problem

Binge drinking alcohol
Binge Drinking Alcohol

Binge drinking is defined by the CDC as consuming enough alcohol in a 2-hour period to raise blood alcohol levels to .08 percent. This is likely to be five drinks for men or four drinks for women. Say what you will about the battle of the sexes, alcohol and women’s biochemistry respond differently to alcoholic beverages than men’s biochemistry – regardless of age or body weight. In general, women’s bodies tend to have a lower concentration of water, and that seems to be the deciding factor.

CDC has flagged binge consumption of alcohol as being the most dangerous pattern of alcohol consumption. It also states that it is the most common pattern, and the most costly.

Who is at Risk for Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is most commonly reported across the age groups of 18 -34 but can occur at almost any age.

Population segments that might indulge in sessions of group drinking include college students, high school students, and even some elementary students. Adults who are not in school who tend to binge drink include people who are battling depression, people who have had traumatic events in their lives, and people who associate being drunk with having fun.

Binge drinking puts other people in danger when drinkers operate motor vehicles, become aggressive when drunk, or when the drinker is pregnant or in charge of young children. Since consuming alcohol reduces inhibitions, it can aggravate family quarrels, encourage unplanned and unprotected sex, and create situations where – if the drinker tends to black-out while under the influence – the drinker has no idea of what he or she did during the hours when their blood alcohol was at a high level.

Unreported Drinkers

While the reported age of drinking seems to be between the ages of 18-34, both high school and elementary students have been known to indulge. Drinkers in the under-18 age group are less likely to report their behavior because of legal and social consequences. Availability is a factor for those who are below legal drinking age, so such behavior is more likely to occur where the under-age drinker has access to a household supply of alcohol, or when he or she is part of a social group that includes “friends” who can legally purchase alcoholic beverages. This is not unusual for high school students, and while not as common, it can occur at the elementary school level too.

Short-Term Effects of Binge Drinking

Immediate effects of binge drinking include loss of coordination, diminishing of inhibitions, volatile mood swings, and possible black-outs where the imbiber does not recall events that occurred while under the influence.

As a result of these effects, the operation of a motor vehicle or any type of machinery can lead to accidents. Loss of inhibitions can worsen quarrels, allowing them to escalate into violence. It can also lead to saying things you would not say under any other circumstances – which can cause domestic and work problems. Lack of inhibitions can also lead to unplanned and possibly unprotected sex, which can lead to unplanned pregnancies and STDs. When uninhibited behavior is posted on Facebook or other social media, or your picture makes the front page of the local paper, job loss or school suspension are also possible effects.

Long-Term Effects of Binge Drinking

Unfortunately, the long-term effects of binge drinking will not be turned aside by taking sensible precautions when drinking alcohol. Depending on the number of binges, their frequency, and the length of time in which the behavior is engaged, binge drinking can have irreversible physical effects.

These effects, according to the Alcohol Rehabilitation Guide, include:

 

  • Liver damage
  • Brain damage
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Heart problems
  • Infertility

Less direct, but lasting effects include:

  • Parenthood
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • STDs
  • Loss of important social connections
  • Extended unemployment

Binge Drinking and Alcoholism

People who binge drink are not necessarily alcoholics; but their behavior could mask a deeper problem with alcohol than they are willing to admit. Alcoholism and alcohol addiction are serious health concerns that can affect every other part of your life. The distinctions are as follows:

Binge drinkers might or might not be frequent indulgers. A person who “goes on a binge” because of a relationship break-up, a job loss, or the simple need to have an emotional fling, is not necessarily an alcoholic. However, people who binge drink often are referred to as “heavy drinkers”. Their binge drinking could be a symptom of alcoholism or alcohol addiction.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

The first step in alcohol addiction treatment is recognition of the problem. Too often people tell themselves things such as, “I just need a little help to get past this problem.” Or “I have more fun at parties if I have a little something to relax.” Until the person recognizes the problem, it is difficult to begin treatment. Ninety percent of the people who have a drinking problem do not recognize it as such.

 

Detox

The next step is to flush the alcohol completely out of the person’s system. This can take two weeks or longer, depending on how long the person has been using alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms can include headaches, fever, nausea, irregular heartbeat, and hallucinations. The most severe symptoms are called delirium tremens, and usually occur in people who have been indulging heavily for ten years or more.

Rehabilitation

In-Patient Rehab: The most severe cases might need in-patient, supervised rehabilitation in an alcohol rehab center. This usually lasts thirty to ninety days, during which time the patient follows a strict regimen designed to rebuild health.

Out-Patient Rehab: This is a viable choice for people who wish to seek help, but who have responsibilities, such as family or work, that make an extended stay in a hospital setting impractical.

FDA-Approved Medications for Alcohol Addiction

While medication will not work for everyone, for some people there are medications that can help break the cycle of dependency.

Here are three types of medication that FDA has approved:

  • Naltrexone
  • Acamprosate
  • Disulfiram

Counseling & Group Support

Less severe cases might go directly to this step, and it is a necessary part of recovery for people who have recently gone through alcohol rehab.

There are essentially four different types of therapy used to help people with drinking problems.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing the mental approach to problems to help avoid triggers or reliance on alcohol to alleviate problem situations.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy focuses on analyzing behavior, creating a plan for an approach, building self-confidence and coping skills.
  • Marital and family counseling helps with creating a support system that can provide assistance through the difficult times and help create alternatives to social situations that encourage drinking.
  • Brief interventions are short sessions that provide information about possible treatments, or deal with specific situations.

The Best Alcohol Rehab Centers

The best alcohol rehab centers employ a combination of techniques, since no two people are exactly alike and different patients will respond to different treatments. In the United States, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) maintains a list of resources. Unfortunately, because of the huge demand, federal programs have long waiting lists. The states, in some cases, have taken up the slack on this, and there are also privately-run institutions.

Paying for Rehab

Paying for alcohol rehab can be a problem for many people. However, thirty percent of people who receive treatment each year use public or private insurance to pay for it. Each year, many people enter programs to stop drinking. In 2014, 1.1 million men and 431,000 women received treatment for alcohol-related disorders.