Dangers of Binge Drinking

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binge drinking feature

Binge Drinking: The Dangers for Veterans and Older Adults

If someone is suffering from alcohol poisoning, immediately dial 911.

War is unforgettable. It’s something most of the public hasn’t seen firsthand, but it’s something so many military personnel take with them.

Veterans come back and want to forget, so plenty of them turn to the bottle. However, one drink turns into seven, and those drinks can lead to a problem called binge drinking. Trying to forget everything can turn into something chronic called alcohol use disorder as well.

In this blog post, we will discuss what binge drinking is, the dangers of it, and treatment options to help with alcohol use disorder.

What Is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is the act of drinking over the recommended amount of alcohol in a short period of time. This means about five or more drinks for men and about four or more drinks for women within about 2 hours or less, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Binge drinking also raises the blood alcohol content (BAC) of a person to 0.08%. Blood alcohol content is the percentage of alcohol a person has in their bloodstream. If a person’s BAC gets to 0.08%, they are legally intoxicated; over 0.08% is considered seriously impaired; and over 0.40% is cause for serious concern. Binge drinking is a very common form of alcohol misuse.

How Common Is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is the most common form of alcohol misuse. One in six adults binge drinks around four times a month, according to the CDC. While binge drinking is most common for people ages 18-34, the most binge drinks consumed are among people ages 35 and up.

While binge drinking in women has increased, men are twice as likely to engage in binge drinking. In 2019, about 30% of men ages 18 and up reported binge drinking within the past month. Binge drinking can happen to anyone, but some groups seem to be affected more than others. Those groups include college students and military personnel.

Binge Drinking in the Military

Drinking in the military is a common occurrence. Military men are 3.5 times more likely to binge drink and engage in alcohol misuse than civilians.

Because of the culture surrounding alcohol in the military and alcohol in general, it is used as a social device and a way for many to self-medicate. Why is this? Well, there are several reasons, but the two main reasons would be the culture of alcohol in the United States and war.

Alcohol Culture in the U.S.

If you grew up in the United States, chances are you have seen plenty of media, heard stories from family members, or even heard songs including alcohol. Unless the media message is for treatment, most of these are framed in a positive context. This gives people a very romanticized view of drinking alcohol and has made people believe it is the “cool” thing to do. This carries over into social settings, such as college campuses, bars, and the military.

Military and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The military is a place that is also known for binge drinking. As a matter of fact, 32.8% of men in the army admitted to heavy alcohol use, and 56.6% of veterans were said to be more likely to use alcohol in a 2017 study. With alcohol being a social commonplace, there is also a discussion to be had about the correlation between alcohol and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the army.

Many veterans will tell you war is traumatic. The things they’ve seen can be unforgettable. That trauma can stay with people and can cause PTSD. The disorder has gone through different names through different wars (“shell shock” in WWI), but it has always been the same disorder.

PTSD and alcohol are related as well. People with PTSD are more likely to have problems with alcohol and binge drinking, and this is the same for veterans. Studies show that 60% to 80% of Vietnam veterans wanting treatment for PTSD also had problems with alcohol.

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Dangers of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking can bring about serious consequences. Certain senses are already impaired when someone is drunk, but one episode of binge drinking can cause unintentional injuries.

Unintentional Injuries

Binge drinking can lead to a variety of unintentional injuries. For example, if someone were to binge drink, loss of coordination can follow. Someone with a loss of coordination could have a fall and end up breaking a bone. This is just one example of an unintentional injury, but there are more serious cases of injuries as well. Car crashes are likely to happen if someone binge drinks and gets behind the wheel, and burns can even happen accidentally.

Physiological (Body) Dangers

Excessively drinking alcohol not only affects coordination, but it can also affect different organs in the body. One of those organs is the pancreas. One episode of binge drinking can cause pancreatitis, which inflames the pancreas. Pancreatitis can cause pancreatic infections, breathing problems, and can lead to diabetes.

Excessive drinking can lead to several forms of cancer: breast, throat, and esophageal are a few, and chronic diseases like high blood pressure. Along with this, it can also cause cardiovascular (heart) problems that can lead to heart failure.

Cirrhosis

Binge drinking affects the liver as well, possibly leading to liver cancer and cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a late stage of scarring in the liver that doesn’t heal. Our liver is an organ that can repair itself every time after we drink, but certain conditions, such as binge drinking, can cause scarring to the point where the liver stops functioning and can be fatal. Complications of cirrhosis may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Spleen enlargement
  • Risk of liver cancer
  • Bone diseases
Binge Drinking Risks in Older Adults

People ages 65 and up have specific risks as well. Aging can increase one’s sensitivity to alcohol, which puts older adults more at risk for accidental injuries. Certain health problems are also more likely to be present in older adults, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Memory problems
  • Osteoporosis (a bone disorder)
  • High blood pressure

Binge drinking worsens these conditions, which can lead to serious injury in some cases. Older adults are also more likely to take medications that can interact badly with alcohol. While these medications and alcohol can have a negative interaction no matter the age group, older adults tend to be more susceptible to this. These medications include:

  • Sleeping pills
  • Cough syrup
  • Pain medications
Alcohol Overdose/Poisoning

One of the most dangerous effects of binge drinking is alcohol overdose, or alcohol poisoning. This happens when someone takes too much alcohol into their body in a short time period. Binge drinking is one of the main causes of this, and the consequences of alcohol poisoning can be very serious.

Some of the complications of alcohol poisoning are choking, seizures, and hypothermia (low body temperature). While there are many risk factors that may increase the chance of alcohol overdose, increased sensitivity is a big risk factor for older adults

If someone is suffering from alcohol poisoning, immediately dial 911.

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Binge drinking can lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD). While binge drinking is described in episodes, AUD is the condition where a person feels they can’t stop drinking, and it causes them great harm and distress.

AUD is common in the U.S. In 2019, slightly over 14 million adults reported having AUD. To know if you have AUD, ask yourself these questions and see if you’ve met the criteria in the past year. The more criteria you meet, the more severe your AUD may be. Have you:

  • More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  • Wanted a drink so badly you couldn’t think of anything else?
  • Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  • Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  • Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure? Or sensed things that were not there?
  • Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  • Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?

Answering “yes” to two to three questions would suggest mild AUD, moderate would be four to five, and over that would be considered severe AUD. While AUD can be mild, moderate, or severe, treatment is still an option no matter how severe the AUD.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

The first step of treatment is often simply seeking treatment. At SUN Behavioral Delaware, we offer everything under the sun when it comes to addiction treatment.

We know every patient is different, so what doesn’t work for some patients might be the most effective form of treatment for others. That’s why, in addition to inpatient treatment, we offer two different types of outpatient treatment — a partial hospitalization program and an intensive outpatient program — and even an evening outpatient program.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

This program is for patients who are transitioning from an inpatient program. This is also a great form of treatment for patients who may need a bit more intensive treatment plan but without hospitalization.

In PHP, patients can expect to attend five therapy sessions per day, five days a week. In these sessions, there will be training for coping skills, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and a relapse prevention plan will be discussed as well. PHPs are medically supervised and have psychiatrists who oversee medication management.

Intensive Outpatient Program

At SUN Behavioral Health, we also have an intensive outpatient program (IOP). Our IOP is for patients who may have completed the PHP but still need a structured treatment plan.

In an IOP, people can expect to go to the treatment center and attend three group sessions per day, five days a week. Much like PHP, these sessions contain therapy, a process group to work through current issues, and a relapse prevention group.

Our IOP has found that adults benefit from this type of treatment the most. Patients in an intensive outpatient program can also expect support groups such as 12-step programming, mindfulness strategies, cognitive behavioral therapy, and aftercare planning for continued recovery.

Adult Outpatient Evening Program

Our adult outpatient evening program was created for patients who are working during the day. This can also be offered through telehealth in the comfort of the patient’s home.

SUN’s evening adult outpatient program starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m. These sessions are held Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The same components of the standard IOP are included, but this way, a patient is able to get treatment after work.

Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment

Co-occurring disorders are common in people. Having co-occurring disorders means that along with their addiction, a patient has one or more mental health disorders. These disorders can vary, but we treat them all at SUN Behavioral Health. Our team of clinicians will take a good look at a patient’s history to determine if they have co-occurring disorders.

Our integrated treatment plan is designed so we can help patients through their addiction and co-occurring disorder. SUN Behavioral Health’s clinical team has plenty of experience in treating people with co-occurring disorders, and we are here to help you.

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Start Your Journey With SUN Behavioral Health

SUN Behavioral Health Delaware has a caring environment that will be with you during your entire treatment. We understand every patient is different, so we see each patient as an individual and not as their addiction.

Our treatment programs can help patients with alcohol use disorder, co-occurring mental health disorders, and get you the treatment you deserve. Call 302-604-5600 to start your treatment today.

FAQs

Why is binge drinking dangerous?

Binge drinking can cause long-term effects on someone’s health. For example, someone who binge drinks often is at a higher risk of getting liver diseases, pancreatic cancers, throat cancers, and heart disease.

What are the risky behaviors of binge drinking?

Binge drinking can lead to several risky behaviors. Binge drinking can lead to accidents, whether that is someone accidentally falling due to loss of coordination or someone getting in a car accident. Unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancies are also associated with binge drinking, as well as sexually transmitted infections.

Does binge drinking cause permanent damage?

In some cases, repeatedly binge drinking can cause permanent damage to someone. It can cause permanent damage to the brain, cirrhosis of the liver, and other chronic diseases and cancers as well.