It’s no surprise that drinking can take a toll on our mental and physical health. While the occasional night out with friends or weekend wine tasting won’t make or break your health, continually binge drinking can affect you detrimentally.
Let’s look at some of the key ways that binge drinking affects your physical and mental health and ways to get help if you or a loved one struggles with alcohol addiction.
What is Binge Drinking?
Before we look at how binge drinking impacts your health, it’s important to understand what binge drinking is. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is “a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above.” For most men, this would be about 5 drinks in two hours and for women, this is about 4 drinks in two hours. The CDC shares that “one in six US adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about seven drinks per binge.”
How Does Binge Drinking Affect Your Physical Health?
Alcohol consumption, including binge drinking, affects your physical health in many ways. The most common include:
- Disruption in sleep
- Poor pregnancy outcomes, including Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Alcohol dependence
- Loss of memory
- High blood pressure
- Liver disease
- Heart disease
These are just a few of the physical ailments of regular binge drinking. In addition, people who binge drink are more likely to drive impaired, which can cause harm to themselves or others through increased car crashes. According to the CDC, 29 people in the US die every day in car crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver.
How Does Binge Drinking Affect Your Mental Health?
In addition to your physical health, binge drinking also affects your mental health. Alcohol actually changes the balance of chemicals and processes in your brain and can alter your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Most people feel relaxed and less anxious after one or two drinks because alcohol depresses the parts of our brain that are responsible for caution. But after more drinks, many people experience aggression or anger because it interferes with your brain’s neurotransmitters. Here are a few other effects of binge drinking on your mental health:
- Increased anxiety and stress
- Increased feelings of depression
- Mood swings
- Loss of productivity at work and in social situations, which can make anxiety worse
Instead of turning to alcohol to relieve stress, choose more holistic ways to manage your anxiety, such as exercise, meditation, or talking to a therapist.
How to Get Help for Binge Drinking
As you can see, binge drinking is detrimental to your health, relationships, and the health and safety of those around you. If you or someone you love needs help with their alcohol abuse or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline. This is a free, confidential treatment referral and information service in both English and Spanish. You may want to find an alcohol detox or rehabilitation center near you.
Many people put off getting help for their drinking because they might not see it as an issue or they are ashamed. But in reality, getting yourself help is a noble next step and will help you live a clean and sober life.