You tell yourself you don’t have a drinking problem. You don’t drink every day, but when you do drink, you can really “put it away.” That’s OK, right?
Wrong. Though occasional binge drinking may seem harmless, overindulging is responsible for 10,076 people being killed in 2013 in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, or nearly one-third of all traffic-related deaths in the U.S. Every day, almost 30 Americans die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 51 minutes.
“Binge drinking is one of the early warning signs that a person is heading toward alcohol dependence and alcoholism” notes David Dequa, program director at The Discovery House. “As part of our recovery program, we help individuals work through their underlying issues and develop the skills necessary to regain their sobriety.”
How many people binge drink?
Binge drinking is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume five or more drinks and when women consume four or more drinks in about two hours.
Nationally, 18.3 percent of people were binge drinkers in 2012. In fact, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 38 million adults regularly binge drink an average of four times a month. Heavy drinking among Americans rose 17.2 percent between 2005 and 2012, largely due to rising rates among women. The CDC defines heavy drinking as more than an average of one drink per day during the past month for women and two drinks per day for men. Interestingly, researchers found that despite the increase in heavy drinking, the percentage of people who drink any alcohol has remained relatively unchanged over time.
6 Reasons Not to be a Binge Drinker
Whether you tend to imbibe only while on vacation or get drunk every weekend, the following surprising signs indicate that you may be drinking too much.
- You become a big risk taker when you drink
Getting drunk can cause you to act out of character by leading you to make risky decisions, such as driving or having unprotected sex. The biggest risk factor when it comes to drinking is making bad decisions, because it increases your odds of contracting an STD, getting a DUI or ending up in a fight or other violent situation.
Moreover, getting drunk makes you more prone to serious accidents of all kinds. Alcohol is to blame for about 60% of fatal burn injuries and drownings and 40% of fatal falls and car accidents, according to the NIAAA. It’s also a factor in half of all sexual assaults.
- You’re a weekend warrior
If you don’t drink daily but are drinking regularly, such as every Friday night, that’s a red flag. While research shows that having about seven alcoholic drinks a week lowers your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, abstaining all week only to binge drink on a Friday night negates any of alcohol’s potential health benefits. In addition, binge drinking raises blood pressure, boosts your risk of cancer and interferes with certain medications. You could also suffer esophageal bleeding if you have to vomit repeatedly.
- You can’t stick to your own limits
Have you ever told yourself you were going to have only a drink or two at happy hour, and before you knew it, you’d downed six beers? One of the clues that you may be a binge drinker is if you seem surprised that drinking somehow crept up on you. “If you have trouble meeting the limits you put on yourself, it signals a problem,” says Deidre Roach, M.D., of the NIAAA.
Like diabetes, heart disease and other health problems, drinking can get out of control gradually. That’s why it’s smart to reevaluate your drinking habits, such as writing down how much you drink and when. Then put reminders of the limit you want to stick to, such as having only two beers at happy hour, in your wallet, on your bathroom mirror or some other place where you can look at it a couple of times a day.
- You black out when you drink
Alcohol affects everyone differently because its effects depend on such things as your genes, which medications you’re taking or whether you ate a big meal (food slows the absorption of alcohol in your bloodstream). Still, researchers speculate that heavy drinking interferes with memory by disrupting glutamate, a key brain messenger, or neurotransmitter, linked to recall. If you have ever “forgotten” parts of the night until your drinking buddies reminded you or have woken up in a strange bed, foggy about the details as to how you got there, you’ve had at least one drink too many.
- You become irresponsible
Drinking is a problem when you notice that you’ve started to neglect things that are important to you for the sake of alcohol. Maybe you’re normally a dedicated worker, but you’re too hung over from happy hour to prepare for your morning meeting. Or you repeatedly ignore your fitness goals and skip your after-work weight lifting session in favor of a few drinks after work.
- Your family and friends are worried about you
If you’re afraid to ask people if you drink too much because you don’t want to hear the answer, that’s probably a sign that you’re overdoing it. You may not be aware of exactly how much you’ve been drinking until it starts creating conflict with your relationships or at work. If your family, friends or co-workers have hinted or said outright that they’re worried about how much you drink, it’s time to cut back.
Drinking is a concern if it causes trouble in your relationships, in school, in social activities or in how you think and feel. If you or someone you love is experiencing any of these problems, it is time to seek help.
The Discovery House, located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, utilizes a variety of treatment programs that allow each client to receive the individualized care they deserve. The pet friendly Southern California rehab center offers a variety of inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment programs to help alcoholics and drug addicts achieve and maintain sobriety. Each client at The Discovery House receives customized care to end their dependence on alcohol and/or prescription drugs, heroin and other opiates in order to live a sober life. To learn more about The Discovery House, visit http://www.TheDiscoveryHouse.com or call (855) 203-7930.
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