What is binge drinking?
Binge drinking refers to excessive consumption of alcohol over a short period of time. That is equivalent to about five or more standard drinks for a male adult, and, four or more drinks for females, within one drinking session.
The more alcohol in the body, the more intoxicated (drunk) a person is. It takes about one to two hours for an adult liver to break down the alcohol in one standard drink. If a person drinks more than this, the alcohol level in the blood builds up and it takes longer for the body to remove it from the system. For example, if you have two drinks in one hour, it could take the body up to four hours to get rid of the alcohol completely. That explains why it is advisable not to drive at all if you plan to drink.
A person who drinks frequently or/and in large quantities, may become addicted to alcohol. Some signs of alcohol dependency include a strong urge to drink; the ability to drink larger quantities of alcohol without appearing intoxicated; persistent drinking; and undergoing withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop drinking. Nearly 95 percent of all adults dependent on alcohol started drinking before the age of 21.
Drinking in moderation
If you do drink, moderation is the key. Women should drink no more than 2 standard drinks a day and men should limit themselves to 3 standard drinks a day. A standard alcoholic drink contains 10 grams of alcohol, and this can be estimated to be:
- 2/3 can (220 ml) of regular beer
- 1 glass (100 ml) of wine
- 1 nip (30 ml) of spirit
Why is the recommended drinking limit lower for women?
The recommended drinking limits for women are lower as their bodies have a different fat to muscle ratio and a smaller blood volume as compared to men. With the poor solubility of alcohol in fats, the blood and tissue concentrations of alcohol become higher in women, even when the amount of alcohol consumed is adjusted for the body size. Women may also have lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase in the stomach than men, and as a result, less alcohol is broken down before absorption.
Short-term harms: Alcohol poisoning
Alcohol poisoning is the most life-threatening consequence of binge drinking. When a person drinks too much, his or her body’s reflexes are affected. These include breathing and the pharyngeal reflex. The pharyngeal reflex, also known as gag reflex, helps to prevent choking. If this reflex is not functioning well, one may die from choking on his or her vomit.
Some other signs of alcohol poisoning include:
- lack of muscular coordination
- blurred or double vision
- drop in body temperature
- low blood sugar concentration
- low blood pressure
- impaired judgement
If a person shows signs of alcohol poisoning, lay him on his side and call for immediate medical attention. Alcohol poisoning can be deadly.
Long term harmful effects
- skin problems and stomach ulcers
- vitamin deficiencies
- mood changes and emotional changes
- memory loss
- liver damage, heart and circulatory problems, and many types of cancer
- Permanent brain damage or death from severe dehydration (not enough fluids in the body) from vomiting