The Dangers of Binge Drinking - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on March 17, 2016

The Dangers of Binge Drinking

Going overboard with the amount of alcohol you consume is plain and simply bad for you.

Drinking alcohol in moderation is fine,
but binge drinking can have both
immediate and long-term health risks.

Holidays, birthdays, weddings, a promotion, a new job or just the arrival of the weekend are all occasions to celebrate and many of us may use alcohol to help in the celebration. Drinking alcohol in moderation is perfectly fine and, depending on what’s in your glass, can actually give your health a boost.

However, going overboard with the amount of alcohol you consume is plain and simply bad for you.

What Is Considered Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above – this usually occurs when women have four or more drinks and men have five or more drinks in about two hours. That means drinking a six pack of beer or one bottle of wine within two hours is considering binge drinking.

Immediate Risks of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking can have some immediate consequences on your health and wellbeing, including injuries from unintentional slips and falls, drunk driving accidents and alcohol poisoning, which has the potential to be fatal. Binge drinking is also associated with sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies, domestic violence, and sexual assault. In general, alcohol has the ability to lower your inhibitions, impair your motor skills and your decision making ability.

Long-Term Risks of Binge Drinking

Although binge drinking is associated with potentially harmful consequences to your health while you’re drinking, it can have an effect on your health into the future as well.

Your immune system can be affected by drinking too much. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can weaken your immune system and slow down your body’s ability to fight off infections for up to 24 hours after getting drunk, making you more likely to get sick. 

Repeated binge drinking has been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers. Drinking too much can have an impact on your major organs, especially your brain.

Excessive alcohol consumption can interfere with the communication pathways in your brain, which can impact the way your brain looks and works. If disruptions occur in the brain’s communication pathways, it can trigger changes in mood and behavior in addition to making it more difficult to think clearly and move with coordination.

Binge drinking can also impact your pancreas, causing it to produce toxic substances and potentially leading to pancreatitis, or the inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas. Pancreatitis can prevent proper digestion and, if you’re diabetic, it can make your condition more difficult to manage.

Heavy drinking can take a toll on your liver as well, possibly causing a fatty liver, fibrosis, cirrhosis or alcoholic hepatitis.

The potential harmful effects of excessive drinking don’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t drink – they just reinforce the importance of drinking in moderation. Moderation means one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One standard drink is equal to 14 grams or 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol, which translates into 12-ounces of beer, 5-ounces of wine, 8-ounces of malt liquor, and a 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor.

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