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Side effects of Binge Drinking
Welcome to all my readers
Today we will be discussing a problem that has become quite prevalent in our society. We will analyse the issues related to binge drinking. The first step to analyzing the issues with binge drinking we need to understand what binge drinking is. We must also consider the side effects (long and short term), the indirect effect it has on other facets of your life, the causes that lead to this illness, and assess the signs that may indicate that you are a binge drinker.
How do we define Binge Drinking
The first step to analyse any situation, circumstance etc. is to clearly understand the problem. Consider the process of building a house, you must first lay the foundation before you can jump into the exciting aspects. This is why we should understand what exactly binge drinking is. Binge drinking simply means the consumption of a large volume of alcohol within a sole occasion or over a continuous period of time. The strict definition states that for an average sized male and female the limit wherein drinking transforms into binge drinking is 5 and 4 drinks respectively, within a 2 hour period. This is not a scientific definition it is just a generally accepted definition. So, what causes people to binge drink?
The root of the problem
Now that we have defined and understand what binge drinking is, we may take a closer look at what leads people to binge drink. The following are a few causes and types of binge drinkers:
- The cautious binge drinker- This type of person usually restrains himself/herself from drinking. A term known as ‘going cold turkey’. This restraint causes him/her to eventually explode in a drinking frenzy. The moment he/she consumes the first drink, they cannot stop themselves. It is similar to a person who has not had food in a few days, when they finally do eat, they eat in abundance (more than they can handle).
- The confused binge drinker- This type of drinker does not intend to drink a lot, however, he/she does not know their own limits resulting in an over consumption of alcohol.
- Peer pressure- This is probably the most popular cause of binge drinking amongst teenagers. Teenagers by nature think of themselves as invincible, thus they drink and drink until they drop. This causes their friends to feel pressured into doing the same. This circumstance also applies to certain teenagers who feel shy at parties and consuming a lot of alcohol is their way of getting over the fear.
- Dominance- This is a common reason amongst men in particular. They feel the need to portray the image of an authority figure when it comes to drinking. They want to show the people around them that they are able to hold their liquor.
- Pain- As many of you are aware, the effects of alcohol can be glamorous when you do not want to feel anything. People binge drink in order to forget their pains and dull their emotions.
- Rebellion- Another common reason amongst teenagers. Teenagers are often stuck with strict parents who put pressure on them regarding academics, sports, culture etc. This causes them to lash out so as to achieve their independence or cause their parents pain by binge drinking.
Disastrous Effects of Binge Drinking
Short term effects
- Hangovers- Don’t you love it when you wake up the morning after a wild night out with a pounding headache? NO. Hangovers are almost a certainty amongst binge drinkers. You are probably thinking it is just a hangover, you will take an aspirin, drink a shake and you will be back to normal. This is not always the case. Forget about the physical discomfort for a moment. A hangover causes secondary effects that you probably never even think about. Often you become extremely moody and take out your anger or pain to the people closest to you (family, friends etc.). This an efficient way to damage your social relationships.
- Physical effects- Headaches, Nausea, Shaking, Vomiting, Alcohol Poisoning, Memory Loss and related injuries while inebriated.
- Injury to others- The above are just harm you inflict upon yourself. Think about the harm you inflict on others. Binge drinkers are more often than not in a state of mental disarray. There is no logic that governs your actions. Binge drinkers often start fights, grow angry very quickly, and usually for no reason. This causes them to inflict terrifying injuries to their friends and people around them.
- Confidence- Confidence is usually a superb quality except in the case of binge drinkers. Why is confidence so bad to binge drinkers? This is because it is a false confidence of extreme proportions. It is a confidence only apparent in the mind of binge drinker and not a confidence in reality. I am talking about the ‘I can fly’ type of confidence. This leads the drinker to carry out extreme actions such as jumping of buildings, playing with fires and many more. All of which ultimately has horrendous consequences.
- Drunk Driving- As we are aware this effect is one of the worst. As I mentioned above, the factor of confidence. Binge drinkers think they are capable of driving when in truth they are not. They cause accidents on the road, thus harming themselves and other innocent drivers. This is a best case scenario. Many times the consequence is death of innocent people.
Long term effects
The meaning of long term effects in this case is consequences that might not be apparent immediately however, it will affect you in the future.
- The addiction- In my opinion, this is the absolute worst effect of binge drinking. I say this because it is the reason for all the other effects. It is ones physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. The body of a human with all its’ wondrous advantages has a fatal flaw. Once the body becomes use to a certain substance it cannot function without it. Scientifically, the brain adapts to the substance and relays signals to the body while under the influence. Long term use of that substance causes the brain to teach the body to only function under these conditions, thus when a person does not drink he/she becomes physically weak, as the body does not know how to function without the alcohol in its’ system.
- Organ Damage- There are five major organs that physically deteriorate due to long term alcohol consumption. The five organs are; the heart, The Brain, The liver, the pancreas and the kidneys. I will explain exactly how alcohol affects each of these organs below.
- Heart- Over time, the substances found in alcohol weaken the heart muscle as a whole, resulting in blood flow irregularities. Binge drinkers often experience a condition diagnosed as cardiomyopathy, wherein the heart enlarges and stretches. The side effects of this condition are excessive coughing, weak breathing, irregular heartbeat, and fatigue. This further increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
- Brain- This organ is affected the most. The ethanol found in alcohol slowly eats away at the neurotransmitters of the brain causing information to be relayed slowly to different parts of the body. Excessive damage to the neurotransmitters causes behavioural and mood changes. These materialise in the form of memory loss, seizures, anxiety, and depression. In extreme cases binge drinkers develop a condition known as ‘wet brain’. The side effects are disastrous and downright sad. This condition causes violent hallucinations and the inhibition of the memory centres of the brain. In simpler terms you will lose the ability to form new memories.
- Liver- The liver is a vital organ in our body however we take this for granted. We do not realise it is the critical component in digestion, nutrient absorption, infection control and toxin killing. Alcohol directly affects the liver as this is where all the alcohol goes when you drink it. This means that binge drinkers are at a high risk of attaining liver related diseases and even liver cancer.
- Pancreas- Much like the brain, the pancreas is affected by the ethanol contained in alcohol as well. The deterioration of the pancreas causes it to secrete the wrong enzymes at the wrong time. The consequences of this are fever, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, increased heart rate and many more. The condition is known as pancreatitis. Prolonged damage to the pancreas may eventually lead to diabetes and death.
- Kidney- This organ is critical in regulating the flow of body fluids and controls the process of urination. Damage to the kidney due to alcohol can cause kidney failure and high blood pressure.
- The above are the 5 organs that are affected by alcohol consumption over a prolonged period. Remember, all the above organs may also develop hostile cancer cells due to the side effects mentioned above.
- Speaking about cancer. Due to binge drinking, cancer may also arise in the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast.
- Sexual issues- For all the males out there and certain females too. Binge drinking causes impotency mainly amongst males however, females are not immune to it either. This is something to consider if you are looking to have children in the future.
Indirect Effects to other Facets of your life
- Sexual immaturity- Binge drinkers are naturally not thinking logically while under the influence. Let us face it, protected sex is not the first on your mind. This leads to binge drinkers have unsafe, unprotected sex. A consequence is often unplanned pregnancies and in turn abortion. Another consequence is receiving an STI such as HIV from your sexual partner.
- Mental instability- Long term over use of alcohol leads to one feeling bad about himself/herself and regretful about the actions they have committed while inebriated. This causes him/her to experience feelings of depression and guilt.
- Loss of loved ones- This is a common consequence amongst binge drinkers. Their inability to think clearly causes them to carry out actions that could potentially hurt their friends, family and lovers on an emotional and physical level. They will end up losing those closest to them eventually ending up in a state of isolation which is not mentally healthy.
- Financial troubles- Many binge drinkers spend incomprehensible amounts of money on alcohol to feed their habit. This leaves them without much money for other basic needs such as looking after their families and covering their basic needs. I have personally experienced men who have lost their wives, families and houses due to their inability to support these aspects financially.
- Loss of jobs- Binge drinkers tend to drink on the job as well as get so ‘wasted’ the night before that they miss their next day at work. They often make up excuses that are not legible. This gets them into a horrid habit that leads to their bosses firing them or worse.
Understand How Alcohol Affects your body
The above information I have provided is based on a mixture of opinion and facts that have been thoroughly researched. Let us now look at cold hard statistics that are undeniable.
- Approximately 90% of all the alcohol consumed in the United States of America by individuals under the age of 21 is effectively consumed by binge drinkers
- At this present moment there are over 2.5 million people in U.S.A who suffer from liver disease due to binge drinking and long term alcohol abuse.
- Liver cirrhosis ( a form of liver disease) was ranked as the 14th most effective cause of death amongst Americans in 2015
- Approximately 89000 Americans (men and women) die from alcohol related diseases every year. This makes alcohol consumption the 3rd leading preventable cause of death in America.
- More than 10% of American children suffer from child abuse every year due to parents who are under the influence of alcohol.
- In the age group 14-59, Alcohol is the leading cause of premature death and disability worldwide.
In summary, I have related to you an abundance of information that relays my point that binge drinking is bad. I have used facts, statistics and good logic to come to this conclusion. You may ignore this information but I can assure you it shall do you no good. There is not a single tangible benefit to binge drinking. There is however the silver lining that drinking is acceptable and may have none of the above mentioned side effects if and only if it is done in a responsible manner.
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© 2016 Yaseen Essack