Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Binge Drinking: What you should know before your next tailgate party

By Heidi Huang, Medical Student
Reviewed by Claudia L. Reardon, M.D.

Have you ever been in a situation where one alcoholic drink led to another and before you knew it, you had one too many drinks?
Whether it’s at college parties, summer cookouts, or tailgating at sports events, millions of Americans have experienced what it is like to binge drink and some do so regularly. Recent studies show that 1 in 6 Americans binge drink at least 4 times a month with an average of 8 drinks each time they binge drink.
Have you ever wondered if this is harmful and what to do to prevent drinking too much? Here are some commonly asked questions about binge drinking.
What is the definition of binge drinking?
Binge drinking is drinking 5 or more alcoholic drinks for men and 4 or more drinks for women in one sitting.
What are the consequences?
  • There are over fifty different injuries and diseases associated with heavy alcohol use and binge drinking. Some of these include car accidents, violence, arrests, unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, depression, and suicide.
  • Heavy alcohol use causes 80,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, and binge drinking accounts for more than half of these deaths.
  • Binge drinking increases your chances of developing a full-blown alcohol addiction.
Why do people binge drink?
  • Some people may not be aware of the safe limits for drinking.
  • People often feel social pressure from friends and peers to drink. For example, while tailgating at a football game or attending college social events, you may feel pressure to binge drink because everyone else is drinking a lot, and people are offering you too much to drink.
  • Most binge drinkers are not alcoholics and are able to go many days without having a drink. Because of this, they may feel their alcohol use is not a problem and may not be aware of the serious consequences of binge drinking.
  • BUT binge drinking may be part of an alcohol addiction problem.
 What are some strategies to avoid binge drinking?
  1. Stay within safe limits: For men, this means no more than 4 drinks in one day and no more than 14 in a week. For women, this means no more than 3 drinks in one day and no more than 7 in a week.
  2. Keep track of the number of drinks you have: Take mental note or write it down. One drink is the same as 12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of table wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
  3. Pace yourself: Try to have less than 1 drink per hour.
  4. Alternate with non-alcoholic beverages such as water or soda.
  5. Avoid drinking contests and drinking games.
  6. Find someone who you can trust and who can offer some support to help limit the amount you drink.
  7. Know that it is perfectly acceptable to politely refuse a drink when you have had enough.
When to get help from a health professional?

It can be difficult to tell when binge drinking will become or is already part of a more serious alcohol addiction such as alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence. If you are unsure about your alcohol use pattern or want to reduce your drinking, you should talk to your doctor or other health professional for more information and guidance to cut down. In the meantime, try some of these tips at your next get-together or sports event.

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