If you think partying only on the weekends isn’t a health problem, think again. Binge drinking, defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as consuming at least 4 drinks over two hours, has been proven to cause alcohol poisoning, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, accidental and sometimes fatal injuries, problems with diabetes and blood pressure, and more. In addition, frequent binge drinking can lead to alcoholism — a trap that is very difficult to escape.
Most binge drinkers are not physically dependent on alcohol, according to the CDC. They’re not always college students, either — in fact, people who binge drink are very likely to be 65 years or older or between the ages of 26 and 34. Older Americans also binge drink more frequently than other adults, with an average of about six times per month. Binge drinkers are also more likely to earn above-average incomes; these households report earning at least $75,000 per year.
Men are twice as likely to binge drink as women. In addition, binge drinkers frequently drive while impaired, greatly increasing the risk of unintentional injuries to themselves and others. People who binge drink are also more likely to be the victims or perpetrators of sexual assault, firearm injuries and domestic violence. Financial losses, sexual dysfunction, neurological damage, liver disease, cardiovascular disease — all of these adverse effects and more happen after establishing a pattern of binge drinking. In fact, some experts more closely associate brain damage with binge drinking than alcoholism because of repeated withdrawals.
Although binge drinking is not the same as alcoholism, repeated binge drinking can lead to alcoholism. Alcoholism is a progressive disease caused by chronic, uncontrolled drinking. People who suffer from alcoholism continue to drink, even when serious health, financial, legal or relationship problems develop.
Predicting how much you’ll drink is impossible. Someone who is an alcoholic might have to drink in the morning, at work or in the car, just to feel normal. Quitting drinking, for the alcoholic, is extremely dangerous without professional help. The withdrawal symptoms of alcoholism can include seizures and delirium tremens, which can cause death if left untreated.