Binge drinking usually refers to drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking with the intention to get drunk. Researchers define binge drinking as consuming eight or more units in a single session for men and six or more for women. Due to the long-term effects of alcohol misuse, binge drinking is considered to be a major public health issue. Binge drinking has become more popular in several countries worldwide, and overlaps somewhat with social drinking since it is often done in groups. Many young people make binge drinking a habit due to them not having anything to do. Lots of young people buy cheap alcohol and drink to excess. They drink large amounts of alcohol to become extremely intoxicated over a short period of time. It is understood that student drinkers choose to engage in this behaviour as a means of fitting in with what is considered a social norm. The high levels of binge drinking among young people and the adverse consequences which includes increased risk of alcoholism as an adult and liver disease make binge drinking a major public health issue.
Being associated with certain groups, especially in the college setting influences young adults and their decision to engage in binge drinking. Young people are confronted with social pressures involving binge drinking and if ignored, risk being isolated from others. The main cause of death among adolescents as a result of binge drinking is road traffic accidents; a third of all fatal road traffic accidents among 15-to 20-year-olds are associated with drinking alcohol. Violence and suicide are also common causes of death associated with binge drinking among adolescents. The suicide risk in adolescents is more than 4 times higher among binge drinkers than non-binge drinking adolescents. Binge drinking can also result in unwanted pregnancy in young people and a higher rate of sexually transmitted diseases. Female binge drinkers are three times more likely to be victims of sexual assault too; research shows that 50% of adolescent girls reporting sexual assault were under the influence of alcohol or another psychotropic substance at the time.
Culture as well as peer pressure play an important role in driving binge drinking. Reasons for binge drinking in young people include it being fun for the drinker, making the person feel more sociable, helping the person to feel happier and more relaxed and to forget their problems. While it may seem like a fairly harmless pastime, binge drinking has health and well-being implications that make it far from safe. Binge drinking is more common in men than it is in women. Approximately 50% of men and 39% of women binge drink. Acute intoxication, such as binge drinking, and alcoholism are known huge factors for suicide. Binge drinking is also associated with an increased risk of unplanned sex, unprotected sex, unplanned pregnancies, and an increased risk of catching HIV. 10% of women and 19% of men have reported being assaulted as a result of alcohol. Males who drink more than 35 units of alcohol per week report being physically hurt as a result of alcohol, and 15% report physically hurting others as a result of their drinking. Almost 16% of binge drinkers report being taken advantage of sexually and 8% report taking advantage of another person sexually as a result of alcohol within a 1 year period.
Heavy drinkers cause approximately 183,000 rapes and sexual assaults, 197,000 robberies, 661,000 aggravated assaults, and 1.7 million simple assaults each year. Binge drinking can also cause adverse effects on the body such as ischaemic heart disease. The most common risk of consuming massive quantities of alcohol in a short period of time is a dangerously high blood alcohol level. The result is called alcohol poisoning (overdose), which can be fatal. Choking on (or inhalation of) vomit is also a potential cause of death, as are injuries from falls, fights, etc… Another common risk of alcohol is a blackout which makes the victim unable to create memories after the event which can cause shame, guilt and embarrassment. Binge drinking is also associated with strokes and sudden death. Binge drinking increases the risk of stroke by 10 times. In countries where binge drinking is commonplace, rates of sudden death on the weekend in young adults and middle aged people increase significantly.
The government are adding a minimum price of 45 pence for every unit of alcohol to prevent young people and adults from purchasing alcohol, although many have argued that this is not a good idea and will not make a difference to binge drinking because they believe that people with the intention of drinking a large amount of alcohol will do no matter the price. Some researchers believe that rising the legal drinking age and screening brief interventions by healthcare providers are the most effective means of reducing morbidity and mortality rates associated with binge drinking. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that increasing the cost of alcohol or the excise taxes, restricting the number of stores who may obtain a license to sell liquor (reducing “outlet density”), and implementing stricter law enforcement of underage drinking laws. There are also a number of individual counselling approaches, such as motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioural approaches, which have been shown to reduce drinking among heavy drinking college students.
Binge drinking costs the UK economy approximately £20 billion a year; 17 million working days are estimated to be lost due to hangovers and drink-related illness each year. The cost of binge drinking to employers is estimated to be £6.4 billion and the cost per year of alcohol harm is estimated to cost the National Health Service £2.7 billion. Due to the risks especially in adolescents, of cognitive impairments and possible irreversible brain damage associated with binge drinking, urgent action has been recommended. There is some evidence that interventions by employers such as, health and life-style checks, psychosocial skills training and peer referral, can reduce the level of binge drinking.
Increasing public information and awareness regarding the risks of binge drinking, conducting interviews in emergency departments of young people suspected of harmful drinking patterns and trying to persuade them to accept individual counselling in youth addiction counselling services are effective strategies for reducing the harm of binge drinking. Increasing public information and awareness regarding the risks of binge drinking, conducting interviews in emergency departments of young people suspected of harmful drinking patterns and trying to persuade them to accept individual counselling in youth addiction counselling services are effective strategies for reducing the harm of binge drinking.