The problem with warnings about binge drinking is that so few people are able to define what constitutes binging. If you were to ask most people who drink, including those who drink heavily, what it means to binge drink, almost everyone would define it as something more than they themselves consume. Yet binge drinking carries very real health risks and more people are binge drinking than may be aware of.
Healthcare professionals who deal regularly with alcohol-addicted patients say that binge drinking is defined as five drinks or more at one sitting for men and four drinks or more at one time for women. Interestingly, when you talk about binge drinking with those who drink regularly they often hasten to say that different people can handle different amounts of alcohol. What they mean is that not everyone shows the same symptoms of intoxication at the same point. Warnings related to alcohol use know nothing of such equivocations.
Some define binge drinking as reaching a particular blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The blood alcohol concentration number is actually a ratio which measures the amount of alcohol ingested (found in the blood) compared to the amount of blood in the person’s body. For example: a .10 BAC reveals that there is a one to one thousand ratio of alcohol to blood (one part alcohol to every one thousand parts of blood). The higher the BAC ratio, the more intoxicated a person will tend to feel.
Yet whether or not the person feels the effects of alcohol consumption is not a reliable measure of the danger level of their drinking. Over-drinking gives rise to serious health risks whether the drinker feels heavily intoxicated or not. A study done within the past decade showed that men can negatively impact their blood pressure, risk of heart attack, stroke or alcohol poisoning with as few as six drinks. According to the study, men who already had elevated blood pressure and who drank six alcoholic beverages actually increased their risk of heart attack or stroke by double. Drinking more than six beverages elevated their risk even more substantially. And, since drinking produces sharp rises in blood pressure (as much as 15-20 points) the sudden surge could prove fatal for those living with high blood pressure already. Health professionals say that alcohol consumption can lead to arterial plaque build-up and hardened arteries – both contributing factors to heart attack and stroke.
Alcohol poisoning is another danger of too much alcohol within too short a span of time. Alcohol depresses your central nervous system. When too much alcohol is consumed, the body may protect itself by passing out. In such a state a person is liable to choke on their own vomit or their breathing may slow down until it actually stops. This can happen to men or women, though for women the danger comes much sooner – with fewer drinks.
Both men and women’s ability to make proper judgments is impaired by binge drinking. This can lead to risky sexual behavior and sexually transmitted diseases and even the danger of violent sexual behavior. With so much at risk, people need to be aware of where the danger lines are drawn. In many cases, that danger line is nearer than they realize.