Binge drinking addiction is a habit that could kill you. Binge drinking means drinking too much in one sitting, enough to get drunk according to blood alcohol content. For most men this equates to drinking five or more alcoholic beverages in a couple hours, while for women the number is closer to four. If you binge drink, you aren’t alone. It’s a dangerous style of drinking that many people engage in, both adults and underage drinkers. Before you go on another bender, learn about the risk you’re taking.
Not all college drinkers have the same underlying motives for participating in alcohol consumption. In a study published in 2014 in the journal Addictive Behaviors, a team of British researchers investigated the various emotional motives for alcohol use among college and university students. These researchers found that specific motivations tend to lead to specific outcomes for college drinkers between the ages of 18 and 25.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a well-known mental health condition that some people develop after exposure to life-threatening situations or other forms of extreme stress. Current evidence indicates that nearly one out of 10 U.S. college students develops symptoms of this disorder. In a study published in late 2013 in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, researchers from the University of Buffalo explored the link between PTSD and the dangerous practice of heavy alcohol consumption in college. These researchers found that there is a two-way connection between PTSD and heavy drinking.
ZIt’s easy to think of heavy drinking, even binge drinking, as an unfortunate but inescapable reality for teenagers and young adults. Many teenagers and those of newly minted drinking age experiment with alcohol use and frequently drink far too much in too short a time.
However, for the most part, young adults lose their taste for binge drinking and learn to moderate their alcohol consumption. This makes it even easier to shrug off heavy, irresponsible drinking among young adults and assume that they will eventually change their ways.
The problem with this line of thought (quite apart from the risk of alcohol poisoning or alcohol use disorders) is that heavy drinking in adolescence can do lasting damage to the brain. An increasing volume of research, including a new study from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, reveals the structural changes in the brain and memory that result from teenage drinking.
The Massachusetts study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, involved rats that were given daily access to alcohol during their adolescence. When the rats reached adulthood, the researchers discovered changes in the structure of their brains due to their exposure to alcohol. Levels of myelin, which is a fatty substance that coats nerve fibers in the brain, were reduced in the rats that were given access to alcohol at a young age. The researchers also found that adolescent alcohol exposure appeared to have a behavioral impact in addition to a structural impact: the rats who drank in adolescence continued to perform worse on memory tests well into adulthood.
This research suggests that human teenagers who drink heavily for a period in adolescence run the risk of permanent structural brain damage and impaired memory. Previous studies have also suggested this risk, but since they were performed on humans rather than rodents, the researchers were unable to control for various environmental factors that could be contributing to cognitive impairment.
There have always been risks associated with heavy drinking and binge drinking, especially among adolescents. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 5,000 people under the age of 21 die each year from alcohol poisoning, alcohol-related car crashes, alcohol-related homicides or suicides or other accidents involving underage drinking. Furthermore, heavy drinking greatly increases the risks of alcohol dependence and other use disorders.
However, it has been easy to believe that those who escape serious harm, dependence or addiction during young adulthood will not suffer any consequences from heavy underage drinking. Research such as the new study from Massachusetts is increasingly demonstrating that this belief is not correct and that teenagers who drink heavily may be damaging their brains for life.
While it is too early to know for sure whether the results of heavy teenage drinking are likely to be permanent or simply long-lasting, this information highlights the importance of reducing heavy drinking and binge drinking among teenagers. It is not only important to help teenagers get through periods of alcohol experimentation and binge drinking without addiction or serious injury, but also to spread the knowledge that heavy drinking can be harmful, even if it does not result in any short-term consequences.
Alcohol consumption is substantially more popular among young adults who attend college than among other people in the same age range who don’t attend college. Some of the campaigns designed to curb drinking on college campuses rely on an intervention technique called personalized normative feedback, which uses comparisons with the drinking behaviors of peers to dispel drinking myths and lower alcohol consumption rates. In a study published in June 2014 in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, a team of U.S. researchers sought to determine if participation in personalized normative feedback can inadvertently cause a college student who drinks below peer average to increase his or her alcohol intake.
Research has shown that an approach called brief alcohol intervention can help significantly reduce the amount of alcohol that college students consume, and thereby decrease the risks for a range of harmful drinking consequences. In addition, research has shown that interventions provided remotely via the Internet have a beneficial impact similar to interventions provided in person. In a study published in July 2014 in the journal Addiction Science & Clinical Practice, a team of Swedish researchers assessed the effectiveness of brief alcohol interventions delivered through downloadable apps on smartphones.
Despite its popularity as a recreational beverage, alcohol is poisonous to many organs throughout the human body, including the brain. In some cases, people under the influence of large amounts of alcohol experience “blackouts” that produce either fragmented memory function or a complete inability to recall spans of time. In a report published in June 2014 in NIAAA Spectrum, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) details the underlying causes for alcohol-related blackouts and also explains the different types of blackouts that can affect a person who drinks excessive amounts of alcohol.
Young adults are known for their relatively high level of involvement in alcohol consumption. However, not all young adults drink; in addition, not all young adults who do drink consume alcohol in risky or dangerous ways. In a study scheduled for publication in August 2014 in the journal Addictive Behaviors, researchers from five British institutions sought to determine if young adults who consume alcohol have different personality traits than young adults who don’t drink. These researchers also sought to determine if personality traits differ between young adult drinkers who participate in dangerous patterns of intake and young adult drinkers who don’t drink in risky ways.
Binge drinking is associated with a number of risks. Immediate potential consequences of consuming a large amount of alcohol include an increased likelihood of sustaining an injury, involvement in assault and risky sexual behaviors. These risks can have lasting impact, such as disability from an injury or an unplanned pregnancy.
Pre-drinking, also known as pre-gaming or pre-game drinking, is a term used to describe the consumption of alcohol in a private setting before either consuming alcohol in drinking establishments or entering locations where alcohol use is not a legal option. Researchers know that pre-drinkers often end up drinking more heavily than their counterparts. In a study published in May/June 2014 in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, a multinational research team explored the factors that help account for increased or excessive alcohol intake in young adults who pre-drink before going out for a night of drinking in licensed establishments.