Drinking is a major aspect of American culture and has been built into the customs of many activities, from parties to sporting events to holiday celebrations. When drinking, people should be mindful of their consumption and limit themselves to a responsible amount of alcohol. Drinking to excess, often called “binge drinking,” can lead to alcohol poisoning and serious health consequences.
What is binge drinking?
Binge drinking is heavy consumption of alcohol over a short time frame. The Mayo Clinic classifies binge drinking for men as at least five standard drinks consumed within two hours. Because alcohol affects female physiology more than men, women must only have four standard drinks within the same period to be classified as binge drinking. Each different type of alcoholic beverage has a different concentration of alcohol, so it is important to know how much of each beverage is classified as a standard drink.
A standard drink is classified as about 14 grams of pure alcohol. Most types of alcoholic beverages contain the same amount of alcohol in their customary serving size. A 12-ounce can of 5-percent beer, a 5.5-ounce glass of wine and a shot of 80-proof liquor are all equal to a single standard drink. However, some types of beverages break this convenient model. For example, a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor contains more alcohol than four standard drinks. Consuming a single bottle of malt liquor can bring dangerous amounts of alcohol into a person’s system at once, putting them in danger of alcohol poisoning.
The effects of alcohol poisoning
The human body processes only about one standard drink’s worth of alcohol per hour, so it is easy for binge drinkers to rapidly accumulate alcohol in their bloodstream. Small increases in blood alcohol content (BAC) can cause minor impairment to coordination and mental faculties. When a person’s BAC rises to the point that basic life supporting functions become impaired, he or she will suffer alcohol poisoning.
The symptoms and severity of alcohol poisoning can vary widely, but the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism notes the following critical warning signs:
- Confusion, stupor or inability to wake up
- Slow or irregular breathing
People suffering from alcohol poisoning are at risk of permanent and fatal damage if their symptoms are left unchecked. They can choke on their own vomit, sustain brain damage, stop breathing or suffer cardiac arrest. Common home remedies such as coffee and cold showers do nothing to help alcohol poisoning and might even make matters worse. Anyone suffering from alcohol poisoning should receive emergency medical care as quickly as possible.
Binge drinking is a serious health concern for people in all walks of life, though the problem is most prevalent in young people. Research shows that people under 20 years of age typically have five standard drinks per sitting, qualifying them as binge drinkers.
If you or someone you know habitually binge drinks, this may be a sign of alcohol addiction. The Arizona Drug Addiction Helpline is available 24/7 to help find you the best treatment program that caters to your needs the most. Call us at 866-576-4147 immediately.