What is Binge Drinking?

How much do you drink? Read further to find out whether you meet the criteria of a binge drinker. If you do, take the time to educate yourself on such an important topic. If you understand the potential danger of binge drinking you will be better informed and able to protect yourself from harm in the future.

Has anyone given you a definition of binge drinking? Today the most commonly used definition of binge drinking is 5 or more drinks for men and 4 or more drinks for women, over an evening or similar span of time, for the purpose of becoming intoxicated. This definition applies whether one is alone or in large groups. Does this surprise you? Though many college students are regular binge drinkers often there is not a realization of the harms and risks involved.

What are the Cons?

Unfortunately, binge drinking can be associated with harm whether physical or social. Your academic performance may be negatively impacted if the effects of binge drinking lead you to miss class or fall behind in assignments. In fact, several national studies link lower grades to higher levels of alcohol use. When intoxicated you may make decisions you will regret later such as having unplanned and unprotected sex, and even being a victim of sexual assault or date rape. You may get into an argument and be insulted or humiliated. You also increase your risk of damaging property, getting physically injured, and getting into trouble with campus safety. Drinking can lead to hazardous and even fatal accidents; 38% of all car accident fatalities are linked to alcohol. In addition, alcohol is related to between 47% and 65% adult drowning incidents.

Dispelling the Myth

Although many college students feel invincible to harm, binge drinking is risky and dangerous. Many believe a myth that as long as they are not regular, heavy drinkers they are not at risk. But the truth shown by research is that occasional binge drinkers are most at risk for harmful and dangerous consequences to their drinking! Does that seem surprising? Those who binge drink just “once in a while” may not think they are at risk for being physically harmed, sexually assaulted, or being in a hazardous situation. The research shows the opposite, however.

Of course, it is always those who drink the most alcohol on any given occasion that are in more serious danger for they are most at risk for alcohol poisoning, a dangerous state that can lead to death. That aside, it is those who occasionally binge drink who experience the most harmful physical and social consequences.

Remember: what is most dangerous is the rapid consumption of large quantities of alcohol no matter how often this is done.

The Greatest Danger of All

One of the most dangerous possible outcomes of binge drinking is alcohol poisoning. Once alcohol poisoning occurs, there is no reversing it. Some people believe that drinking black coffee, taking a cold shower or bath, walking, or sleeping will reverse the alcohol poisoning. The truth is only time will reverse the effects. However, someone with alcohol poisoning may not have time. The effects of poisoning may lead to a fatality before the blood alcohol level has time to decrease. One’s blood alcohol content will continue to rise even after he or she stops drinking. Hence, it can continue to rise even if one is sleeping, walking, showering, etc.

A Terrible Way to Die

There are other ways one can die from alcohol poisoning besides the fact that a fatal dose of alcohol will stop your breathing functions. One can choke on his vomit while unconscious. Vomiting is a common response to binge drinking and loss of consciousness is common for those with alcohol poisoning. The famous classic rock star Jimi Hendrix died from inhaling his vomit while unconscious.

When to Call for Help

To help yourself or a friend in a situation of potential alcohol poisoning, watch for signs such as confusion, seizures, and unconsciousness. In addition, someone with alcohol poisoning may have slower breathing (8 or less breaths per minute), irregular breathing (10 or more seconds between breaths), cold, pale skin and low body temperature, and strong alcohol odor exuding from the breath or skin.

If you notice anyone displaying these signs of alcohol poisoning, call 911, and stay with the person until help arrives. To prevent choking on vomit, hold the person’s back to keep the person on his or her side.

Need to Talk to Someone?

In summary, understanding binge drinking and how it can affect you will help you make educated decisions in the future. Hopefully, knowledge of the signs of alcohol poisoning and of when to call for help will decrease the likelihood of unnecessary tragedy.
To make an appointment with a member of the Georgetown College Student Wellness Center’s counseling staff for help on this or any issue, please call 502-863-7074. Counseling staff include:

Lynda Fereday
Russell Hall
Sarah Joyner
Ruth Riding-Malon
Jean Tzou
Audrey Wagner
Dr. Macy Wyatt
Dr. Edward Marshall

By Audrey Wagner