The theme of this year’s Alcohol Awareness Month: “Help for Today. Hope For Tomorrow” seeks to increase awareness about the impact of alcohol on young people, families, and communities.
In light of that theme, I thought I would talk about the impact of binge drinking.
Many individuals, family members, and children experience problems caused by alcohol abuse and binge drinking. It is rare to find someone who has not been touched by the issue to some degree or another. Look around at your family and friends; you can surely count more than one. When you are thinking about the people in your circles that come into contact with this issue, realize that it is not just the person doing the drinking that is affected. Friends, immediate family members, extended family members, co-workers, employers, neighbors, and even acquaintances may be touched by an individual’s drinking.
Binge drinking has a primary goal of intoxication. It is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above in a short period of time: typically, 5 or more drinks for men or 4 or more drinks for women. This type of drinking appears to be the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. In Colorado, 20.1% of adults and 22.3% of high school students reported binge drinking in 2011. According to the Colorado Prevention Partnership for Success, Colorado ranks 9th highest in the nation in terms of binge drinking among teenage youth.
So why should you be concerned about binge drinking? You may think: whatever people want to do, that’s their business right? It doesn’t affect me (unless you are the one doing the drinking).
Have you ever been to a party with alcohol? Perhaps someone else has been drinking too much and started to make the situation uncomfortable? We refer to this as impaired judgment. It is where the decreased inhibitions from alcohol can cause individuals to think and behave in a way they might not normally do if they were not drinking. Impaired judgment can show up in other places too including relationship conflicts, poor financial management, lost sleep, increased anxiety or worry, and embarrassment over socially unacceptable behavior by the drinker.
Have you ever had a hangover? Been slightly nauseous or vomited from drinking too much? Watched someone else experience these effects? Or read about the college age youth who drank too much, was left unattended, and died from alcohol? Binge drinking can have a negative impact on the health of the drinker, and more quickly due the amount and frequency of the drinking. Binge drinking’s impacts on an individual’s health may include hangovers, injuries, weight gain, sleep problems, high blood pressure, an increased risk of brain or liver damage, increased risk of certain types of cancers, alcohol poisoning, and ultimately even death. If you are not the person doing the drinking, the declining health of a friend or a loved one deteriorates your relationship with them over time.
Have you ever had to complete a project for a co-worker who wasn’t able to finish due to alcohol or drug use? Binge drinking can impact your community and the larger community in many ways. Personal community effects include workplace problems and academic performance issues while effects in the larger community may show up in increased crime rates, increased traffic accidents, and an increase in the number of alcohol related emergency room visits.
If you are binge drinking, how can you stop?
Knowledge is power. The more information you have, the better equipped you are to take charge of your drinking.
1. Know how much alcohol is in one drink. One five ounce glass of wine = one 12 ounce beer = 1 shot of hard liquor
2. Drink slowly. Pace yourself. One drink with alcohol per hour and then drink something else.
3. Resist peer pressure. Don’t let others push you into drinking more that you want or are able to.
4. Develop stress management tools. Simple activities such as breathing exercises, yoga, journaling, or a phone discussion with a friend all may be able to reduce your stress to a manageable level.
5. Choose activities that don’t involve alcohol. When you and a friend make plans to go out, plan to do an activity that involves physical exercise or go to the movies. Stay away from places where there is alcohol available.
6. Talk with someone about your drinking. If you or someone you love are unable to stop binge drinking. Get help. Call a substance abuse professional or an alcohol and drug treatment program where they have experience dealing with individuals who have substance abuse issues. You do not have to deal with this alone.
Here are some additional resources that provide information and education about binge drinking:
UPDATE: May 20, 2014
This article posted on medicalnewstoday.com outlines a very small but significant study. It notes that even one session of binge drinking appears to impact an idividual’s health. It’s a quick read, take a glance at it if you have a minute.
If you or someone you love is struggling with binge drinking, alcohol abuse, alcohol addiction, or codependency issues, Contact me today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation to talk about how we can work together or find the right person for you.
1. CDC. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) [database]. Accessed Dec 6, 2012.
2. CDC. Youth Online: High School Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBS) [database]. Accessed Feb 27, 2013.