Binge drinking can create long-term health risks

TV and movies often glamorise binge drinking. The truth is that there is nothing beautiful about it. It involves a dangerous pattern of excessive alcohol consumption. Typically, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will rise to 0.08 percent or above after binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as having four or more drinks within a two-hour time-frame, for women. For men, binge drinking is identified as having five or more drinks over the course of two hours. Beyond a hangover, this behaviour can create long-term health risks. You might want to think before you go out drinking tonight.

There is always a good reason to drink: parties, festive celebrations or watching a soccer game with your friends. But when one drinks excessively, it is hardly a case for celebration. About 60% of South Africans drink alcohol and we see it necessary to bring awareness of this issue to you.

The facts

A study published in June 2018 found that young adults who frequently binge drink were more likely to have specific cardiovascular risk factors such as higher blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar at a younger age than non-binge drinkers.

The research, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that binge drinking by young men was associated with higher systolic blood pressure, the force on blood vessels when the heart beats. In addition, frequent binge drinking had additional effects on cholesterol. High blood pressure and cholesterol levels are factors contributing to cardiovascular disease. Female binge drinkers had higher blood sugar levels than those who did not drink alcohol.

What are the effects of binge drinking?

Regular drinking will have negative impacts on your health:

  • Being drunk effects co-ordination and balance. This can lead to accidents and falling over. If the accident or fall is bad, it could result in anything ranging from minor injury to severe injury and even death.
  • When between five to seven units of alcohol are consumed within a short amount of time the chances of accidents or injury occurring are greater. This is equal to about 2-3 “draft” glasses of beer. Remember: Don’t drink and drive.
  • Too much alcohol in the system can stop your heart and cause you to choke on your vomit which could result in death.
  • Binge drinking can affect your mood and your memory and, in the longer term, can lead to serious mental health problems.
  • Binge drinking can lead to anti-social and aggressive behaviour which could have detrimental impacts on relations with loved ones and friends.

Are you a binge drinker?

If the following applies to you, there is a chance that you may be a binge drinker.

  • Regularly drinking more than one unit of alcohol per hour.
  • Getting drunk is the reason that you drink.
  • You tend to drink quickly.

How to avoid binge drinking

Binge drinking can have disastrous consequences on your health and well-being.

Below are some tips that you should follow step-by-step to avoidthis:

  • Firstly, Keep track of and limit the amount of alcohol which you consume on a single occasion.
  • Secondly, Drink more slowly and try to alternate each drink with a non-alcoholic beverage and food.
  • Finally, Avoid risky people and places. Always ensure that you are with people that you know and make sure that you have a plan to get home safely.

Getting help with binge drinking

If you or someone that you love is having problems with binge drinking, it may be a good idea to seek help by calling one of the following organisations:

  • Firstly Alcoholics Anonymous on 0861 HELP AA (435-722)
  • Secondly The South African depression and anxiety group on 0800 21 22 23

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