Severe alcohol use among Americans has increased over the past decade. And we’re not just talking about having an extra glass of wine at dinner. A dangerous aspect of fashion: Excessive drinking. A 2015 study showed that more than 37 million Americans reported excessive drinking within a year.
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In the study, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at survey results on more than 400,000 Americans. They found that 17% of U.S. adults drink excessively, and do so on average 53 times per year-that’s more than once a week.
This trend still proves to be an issue. And a recent 2021 study showed that binge drinking is more likely to also abuse other substances, such as the misuse of prescription drugs.
The dangers of excessive drinking can leave lasting effects in many ways. But at the end of the day, how do you know if you, or a loved one, are involved in excessive drinking? And how do you respond to this head on?
Addiction specialist David Streem, MD, explains the symptoms to look for.
What is binge drinking?
Indulging in drinking more than casual beer after work. But the definition of what a period of excessive drinking is may surprise you.
The CDC defines an overdose period of drinking at least four drinks for women or five drinks for men over a two -hour period. This is enough to raise your blood alcohol level to .08, resulting in driving damage.
The results of the 2015 study showed that Americans drank about seven drinks at each stage of binge drinking.
“If you consider that the minimum definition of excessive drinking is four or five drinks per two -hour session, it’s much higher,” Drs. Streem. “It’s a frequency that’s incredible.”
Who is overdrinking?
There may be other factors associated with excessive drinking, as well. According to the CDC, excessive drinking is more common among:
- Young people between the ages of 18 to 34.
- Men than women.
- Adults with higher household incomes.
How much to drink?
To determine how much alcohol you are drinking, it is good to understand how much is in a drink you are pouring for yourself. Since there are so many different types of malts, wine and wine, it is important to pay attention to labels and serving sizes.
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines a standard drink as:
- A 12-ounce beer (usually about 5% alcohol).
- A 5-ounce glass of wine (usually about 12% alcohol).
- 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (usually about 40% alcohol).
Excessive drinking against alcoholism
Excessive drinking need not be a sign that you or a loved one has an alcohol use disorder (also known as alcoholism), which is a dependence on alcohol consumption.
Unlike binge drinking, the problem of alcohol use disorders is not measured by a specific amount of beverages. However, the CDC defines it as a chronic condition, meaning it is a type of disease that persists for a long time. Therefore, despite some similarities, alcohol use disorders should be approached with a specific treatment plan that includes rehabilitation, care from addiction specialists and self-help programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. .
But alcoholism and binge drinking can have similar health consequences.
The main indication of a period of excessive drinking is to drink four to five drinks (or more) in two hours. It is not associated with an alcohol dependence, and the CDC frames it as a preventable problem.
If you are worried that you or a loved one may have a problem with excessive drinking, other signs include:
- Always blacking out or having gaps in your memory.
- Feeling guilty or worried about drinking too much.
- Experiencing legal problems because of your drinking.
- Tired or angry after a night out.
- Feel defensive about your drinking.
- Drink more than you originally planned.
- Drink early in the day.
- Substitute other activities you enjoy drinking or focus most of your weekend plans on going to the bar or drinking.
Excessive drinking can also cause immediate harm as well. What many people think is a fun night out on the town can be very dangerous – or in some cases, life -threatening, Drs. Streem. More than half of all drinking-related deaths are due to binge drinking.
How does excessive drinking affect your health?
There are many health risks associated with excessive drinking. While the dangers of getting behind the wheel while drunk seem obvious, Drs. Streem says it is possible to be injured or even killed after binge drinking due to falls and other incidents that occur due to poor judgment.
“The main factors that cause problems are our judgment, our attention, and our reaction time,” he said.
As far as long-term effects, excessive drinking can also lead to internal damage, especially if you regularly participate in periods of excessive drinking. Excessive amounts of alcohol consumed over long periods of time can negatively affect the parts of your brain that deal with judgment, balance and coordination.
Other long-term health effects that can result from excessive drinking include:
Excessive drinking and alcohol intoxication
Because excessive drinking involves drinking and higher amounts of alcohol, the health impact can be more severe. Another common and more common side effect of excessive drinking is alcohol intoxication. This is when your blood alcohol level is so high that your body is unable to get rid of the toxins that are easily removed. Basically, you overdose on alcohol.
Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
- Confusion and lack of coordination.
- Difficulty staying conscious.
- Irregular pulse, breathing or heartbeat.
- Seizures, vomiting or convulsions.
“Because blood alcohol levels can be higher with excessive drinking, you’re more exposed to severe alcohol poisoning,” Drs. Stream.
How to avoid the risks of excessive drinking
According to Dr. Streem, the point is that Americans should drink less alcohol.
“Generally speaking, Americans drink too much,” he said. “We take great care as a nation, in terms of our health and safety, and our quality of life, if we drink very little.”
The good news is that excessive drinking can be prevented by adjusting your habits and becomes more deliberate if you pour yourself a drink.
Here are some steps you can take:
- Pay attention to the marking and the alcohol content of each drink.
- Think about how long alcohol will stay in your body.
- Consider doing a Dry January or stopping drinking to keep your body healthy.
- Call a doctor or counselor if you find yourself engaging in excessive drinking.
The complete results of the 2015 study can be found at American Journal of Preventive Medicine.