Alcohol can damage the body in various ways, not only in one’s physical health and fitness but also in how the body’s organs function. However, alcohol use takes place in many ways, and each comes with its risks for the health of our organs. Here’s a look at binge drinking, what it is, and how it causes damage to our organs.
What Is Binge Drinking?
In order to understand how and why binge drinking damages the organs, we first need to understand what it is. Binge drinking is a pattern of frequent alcohol use that raises blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) levels in a short time. Binge drinking occurs when someone reaches a BAC of at least 0.08% within two hours of drinking alcohol. This BAC matches what most states consider intoxication, although intoxication can occur below 0.08%, such as in Utah.
However, this does not mean binge drinking is the practice of getting drunk within two hours. While a BAC of 0.08% will most likely involve around five alcoholic drinks for males and four alcoholic drinks for females, a wide range of factors can affect how intoxicated someone is by the time their BAC is 0.08%. These include boy weight, age, and metabolism, just to name a few.
It’s important to note that people who binge drink may not develop alcohol use disorder (AUD). The context of binge drinking is surprisingly widespread, with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism citing data that about 24% of people age 12 and older in the United States participate in binge drinking on a monthly basis. The context of binge drinking typically takes place at parties, a night out with friends, and of course, a celebration of someone’s 21st birthday.
However, binge drinking is especially dangerous because those who do it do not always have AUD. The special occasion of parties or outings means we treat binge drinking as something we can indulge in from time to time. But this perspective means we aren’t paying attention to (or we aren’t aware of) the damage binge drinking can cause.
Expected and Unexpected Damage
Binge drinking is one of the most common factors that contribute to alcohol overdose, meaning that our bodies have an excess amount of alcohol in our bloodstream, and we cannot process all of it. Once alcohol cripples our central nervous system, we start to experience an inability to control things like heart rate, body temperature, breathing, and response to choking. It is vital not to downplay someone who has passed out after binge drinking as hitting their limit. They might be unconscious because their body can’t stay awake, but the excess alcohol is still spreading throughout the body. Far from being safe, people who pass out from binge drinking are at a much higher risk of dying because of not getting enough oxygen, either from their reduced heart and lung function or from choking on vomit while unconscious.
We probably expect these examples of organ damage because they can occur to anyone who experiences an alcohol overdose or uses alcohol long term. But it’s important to remember that binge drinking is not exempt from these dangers. However, there are other unexpected damages that can occur when binge drinking. Alcohol affects the body’s tissues, and excessive alcohol use can lead to chronic diseases, including acute pancreatitis, and an increased risk of cancer, such as colorectal, breast, and esophageal. In adolescents, binge drinking can greatly damage brain development, leading to deficits in attention, memory, and cognitive functions.
Heart disease is another unsuspecting side effect of binge drinking. The reason is that drinking too much alcohol raises blood pressure. This puts a strain on the heart and creates an environment for an increased risk of developing dangerous heart conditions, such as atrial fibrillation, blood clots, stroke, and heart failure.
Is Binge Drinking Damage Reversible?
Once we learn how harmful binging on alcohol is, the big question we should ask is whether the damage caused to our organs is reversible. In this case, time is of the essence. The first thing to do to maintain our organs’ health is to avoid binge drinking altogether. The risks associated with binge drinking are simply not worth the fleeting reward of the moment. However, if we find we cannot avoid binge drinking on our own, it is a high likelihood that we have developed an addiction to alcohol. If this is the case, then avoiding binge drinking will also involve completing a professional detox treatment plan with medical professionals committed to helping you each step of the way.
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