Binge drinking is dangerous, so why are we still doing it?
We know binge drinking is dangerous, so why are we still doing it?
Binge drinking is an incredibly dangerous habit, with a range of serious and potentially life-threatening consequences, yet it’s one that as a country, we can’t seem to completely give up. It’s also a habit that’s more common than many people realise, given than the definition of a binge is only three to four drinks.
The UK’s Binge Drinking Habits are a Serious Problem
A report from the World Health Organisation, released in 2014, shows that Britain’s drinking habits—in particular binge drinking habits—are among the worst in the world. In study that compared nearly 200 countries, the UK ranked the 13th highest for heavy drinking, with 28% of people surveyed having had episodes of heavy drinking in the previous month. The worldwide average is 16%. The UK ranked 25th out of the 196 countries for total alcohol consumption.
Many people think of a drinking binge as something that takes place over several days, where the drinker is drunk for an entire weekend, for example, and this makes it seem as though this kind of drinking isn’t all that common. The reality is, the definition of a binge involves a lot less alcohol than that, and binge drinking is much more common than most people realise. In the UK, binge drinking is defined as eight or more alcohol units for men, and six or more alcohol units for women, consumed on a single occasion. This is actually somewhat higher than the definition in many other countries; for example, the definition of a binge in the US is five or more drinks for men, and four or more drinks for women. It should also be noted that an alcohol unit isn’t defined as one drink: in fact, a single 175ml glass of wine, or a single pint of beer, is equivalent to two alcohol units, so a binge can be as few as three drinks for women, and four for men.
Why is Binge Drinking So Dangerous?
Binge drinking is dangerous for many reasons, and can have serious effects on both physical and mental health. During a drinking binge, for example, there’s an increased risk of accidents and falls—and in fact, alcohol is the single biggest risk factor and cause of these kinds of accidents in the home. In extreme cases, binge drinkers risk becoming seriously ill and even risk dying. A heavy overdose of alcohol can cause brain damage and even death, because with enough alcohol, breathing ceases and the heart may stop beating. For someone who passes out as a result of binge drinking, there’s a risk of vomiting while asleep, and choking. In the long term, binge drinking can lead to serious liver damage, liver disease, and ultimately liver failure and death. Binge drinking also increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
In terms of mental health, binge drinking can have serious negative impact on memory and mood, and in the long term can result in mental health problems. And people who binge drink are more likely to behave in aggressive, antisocial, or violent ways when they’re drunk.
This kind of drinking isn’t dangerous just because of the effects of alcohol on the body in the long term. There’s also the fact that someone who is extremely drunk is more likely to find themselves in dangerous situations, and is more likely to engage in behaviour that puts their own safety, or the safety of others, at risk.
Putting Binge Drinking to Rest
Binge drinking is clearly bad news, but there’s some good news about the country’s drinking habits too. According to the Office for National Statistics, although binge drinking is still fairly common, it’s getting less so. Just 10 years ago, in 20015, 29% of young adults were binge drinking at least once a week—but by 2013 this figure was down to 18%. Among all adults in the UK, the percentage of binge drinkers fell from 18% in 2005 to 15% in 2013, a small but still important difference. And in 2013, 21% of adults surveyed reported that they didn’t drink at all. Even so, alcohol is still the single largest cause of death for people under 60, so while these reductions in binge drinking are good news, the figures are still too high.
Written by Mel