Binge drinking – the excessive consumption of alcohol in a short period of time – is harmful in both the short-term and the long-run. Still, whether or not they realize the effects, adolescents under the legal drinking age often take part in the activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that binge drinking is responsible for 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by teens and young adults under 21.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is defined as drinking that increases someone’s blood alcohol level (BAC) to 0.08%, which is considered “legally drunk”. While alcohol tolerance differs between individuals, this level is typically reached when women consume four or more drinks and when men consume five or more drinks in less than two hours.
Large amounts of alcohol, whether binging or not, eventually take a toll on mental and physical health.
But if it’s so dangerous, why is it so common for teens to binge drink?
For starters, it’s easy to get caught up drinking at a party. “Just a few drinks” become too many drinks, and before you know it, you’re tipsy. All your friends are holding red Solo cups and there are drinking games galore – beer pong starts to get intense. You think what’s happening around you is too interesting for you not to be a part of it.
Even the drinking itself can become a competition: Who can get drunk the fastest? Who can make the best drinks?
However, different situations can arise. Someone needs to drive home, but they’re heavily intoxicated. Another person gets severely ill from alcohol poisoning. Things turn ugly in a matter of minutes.
Teenagers may be misinformed of the effects of binge drinking. They don’t see anything wrong with it and don’t fully understand the complications that arise from drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. In their eyes, it’s acceptable and even encouraged.
They may also resort to the practice as a way to cope with stress and/or depression. Because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it gives users a lightweight feeling. However, the drug also dampens the ability to be self-aware and to practice solid judgment. According to a 2009 medical study, binge drinking is associated with an increased risk of suicide and violent behavior.
Although binge drinking is twice as prevalent for men as it is for women, women are more susceptible to its effects. Alcohol metabolizes differently between men and women. Women’s bodies hold less water than men’s, meaning that women’s BAC generally increases faster than men’s.
Since teenagers are not fully developed, alcohol can impact the development of their brains. Some examples include memory loss, trouble having self-control, and increased difficulty with processing information. Physically, it can damage your liver, heart, and immune system. Your body works extremely hard when trying to get rid of the toxins from alcohol. Binge drinking does not allow your body to take a break from cleansing and exhausts different organs, especially your liver.
In order to prevent yourself or someone you know from the harmful effects of binge drinking, it’s important to avoid environments where other people are drinking: “Out of sight, out of mind.” Try suggesting different hangout ideas with your friends. If people are pressuring you to drink, even if it’s just one drink, tell them that you are the designated driver. Try to care for others around you. Be the example in your group of friends.
Binge drinking seems like an easy fix and fun from afar or when you see it in movies, but is it worth all the health risks?
By Maria Vasquez