Most of us Aussies love a drink of alcohol. For many, alcohol is with us when we relax after a tough day, when we enjoy the company of friends and forms a key part of our social make-up. But what happens when a drink or two becomes many? What happens when you binge drink either regularly or occasionally?
The occasional binge drinker
If you’re the type of person who gets drunk irregularly, you probably consider yourself a normal Australian. After all, isn’t binge drinking of alcohol something most of us do? Aren’t our tales of being drunk and how much alcohol we consumed something we wear like a badge of honour?
While that may be the case and you’re certainly not alone (1 in 6 Australians consume more than 11 standard alcoholic drinks in one sitting every month) getting drunk isn’t something you should trivialise. Because getting drunk and binge drinking does have a significant affect on your brain and your body.
According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, the short-term effects of binge drinking and getting drunk can include headaches, nausea, vomiting and memory loss. People who are drunk are also more likely to get injured, by falling, having an accident or being involved in aggressive behaviour (either the aggressor of the victim).
Either wittingly or unwittingly, you can also put others at risk by driving or going to work while you’re still under the influence of alcohol. Depending on how much you’ve drunk and how quickly you metabolise the alcohol, this can be many hours after you had your last drink.
As most of us know, hangovers can also be a curse, causing tiredness, lapses of attention, dehydration and a general feeling of being unwell.
In extreme cases, drinking alcohol to excess can lead to alcohol poisoning and death.
The regular binge drinker
If you’re a regular binge drinker or get drunk more than occasionally, eventually it will cause you harm if you don’t curb your behaviours.
Health-wise, there is plenty of evidence to show that drinking to excess regularly can lead to issues with your liver, brain, stomach and heart. For example, a common complaint for people with a history of alcohol abuse is cirrhosis of the liver – permanent damage and scarring of the liver that can increase the risk of liver cancer.
Excessive drinking can also lead to a wide variety of social issues. For example, you may have trouble holding down a job and struggle with financial issues. Abuse of alcohol often leads to relationship issues with family and friends.
Reducing the impact of alcohol
To reduce the risk of short-term and long-term impacts of alcohol, the National Health and Medical Research Council recommends drinking no more than two standard drinks in a day or four standard drinks on any one occasion. That’s a standard alcoholic drink (see What is a standard drink?) not that oversized glass of wine that the bartender has just poured you.
You can also:
- Set limits and stick to them
- Drink slowly
- Drink non-alcoholic drinks between each alcoholic drink
- Know exactly what you’re drinking and how much
- Don’t skip meals – eat before and during drinking
See Binge drinking in today’s society for further information.