Why Binge Drinking Even Once a Week is Bad 

If you like kicking back with a drink here and there, medical experts agree that drinking alcohol in moderation is the only way to do it without putting your health at risk.   

Working around this recommendation by drinking an entire week’s allotment of alcohol in one night is not the way to go. New research indicates that binge drinking even once a week can increase your risk of health problems by almost five times – even if you abstain from alcohol the rest of the week.  

What is considered binge drinking?  

One in four American adults who binge drink consume at least eight drinks during a binge occasion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That total doubles the general definition of binge drinking, which is four or five drinks in one sitting. Bing drinking is most common among younger male adults aged 18-34. 

Michiganders may be uniquely susceptible to binge drinking, compared to other regions of the country. The CDC states that binge drinking is common among adults who have household incomes of $75,000 or more, are non-Hispanic white, or live in the Midwest. 

Short-term effects of binge drinking  

You may feel a bit of a rush from that first glass of beer or wine. Maybe your mood is lightened, and you become more talkative in a social setting.  

But after a couple more drinks, your brain activity slows down and essential bodily functions are affected. Here are some possible severe effects of a night spent binge drinking:  

  • Blackouts (alcohol-induced amnesia) and memory loss 
  • Decreased bladder control 
  • Drowsiness 
  • Impaired balance and coordination   
  • Impaired judgment  
  • Lowered inhibitions 
  • Memory loss 
  • Mood swings 
  • Nausea or vomiting 

Long-term effects of binge drinking 

If you make a habit out of binge drinking, you could expose yourself to a myriad of long-term health problems. Our liver breaks down most of the alcohol we consume, damaging liver cells in the process. Alcohol also scars the liver of about 1 in 5 heavy drinkers. But excessive drinking can harm far more than just your liver. Alcohol is a causal factor in more than 200 disease and injury conditions according to the World Health Organization. Some of those conditions include:  

  • Cancer of the breast (among females), colon, esophagus, mouth, larynx, liver, pharynx, and rectum.  
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs)  
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)  
  • Liver damage and/or liver disease 
  • Memory or learning problems 
  • Motor vehicle crashes 

Other external and ancillary effects of excessive drinking can include the risk for sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy and physical harm to oneself or others, including falls, domestic violence, homicide, suicide, or sexual assault 

Another danger of habitual binge drinking is the chance it develops into alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is a medical condition characterized by one’s inability to stop or control alcohol use, despite negative consequences. 

AUD encompasses alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, and alcoholism. Binge drinking regularly can increase the risk of AUD.  

Symptoms for AUD are behavioral. They include:   

  • Continued drinking despite alcohol causing issues with family or friends 
  • Continued drinking despite it making your feel depressed or anxious  
  • Inability to control the amount of drinking 
  • Increased alcohol tolerance 
  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop drinking  

Alcohol abuse treatment options 

Anyone seeking help for alcohol dependency should start with their primary care provider or a mental health provider. They can get you a professional diagnosis as well as a treatment plan based on individual needs. Depending on the severity of symptoms, providers may recommend a combination of therapy and medication. 

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) and Blue Care Network (BCN) can help you find a behavioral health specialist or treatment center, depending on your needs. Below is a list of numbers to call, depending on your plan. You can see which plan you have on your Blue Cross ID card. 

  • Blue Cross PPO, answered by New Directions: 1-877-627-1041​ 
  • Blue Care Network HMO: 1-800-482-5982 
  • ​Medicare Plus Blue PPO: 1-888-803-4960 
  • Blue Care Network Advantage HMO: 1-800-431-1059 

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism can also help. The NIAAA provides resources in the form of advice, outpatient and telehealth program search functions, helpful links, and online pamphlets. Click here to learn more. 

Photo credit: Getty Images

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