With one in six adults consuming an average of eight drinks per binge, about four times per month, binge drinking is a public health problem in the United States. Binge drinking can result in cirrhosis, hepatitis, liver disease, and fatty liver.
There’s hope for those who can’t quit alcohol, or drink in moderation, and there are many inpatient drug rehab centers to help people struggling overcome alcohol abuse or addiction.
What Is Considered Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking occurs when an individual drinks enough to become legally drunk, or has obtained a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher in a short period of time—about two hours.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines binge drinking as five or more alcoholic drinks for men, or four or more alcoholic drinks for women on the same occasion. Binge drinking is essentially drinking alcohol for the effect it produces—i.e. drinking to get drunk.
There are other reasons that people drink too much. Those may include the social acceptability of it, enjoying the effects produced by alcohol, or an inability moderate the amount they drink. Not everyone who binge drinks will become dependent on alcohol.
Binge drinking doesn’t necessarily mean that a person has been drinking heavily for a long period of time. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention the people most likely to binge drink are between 18 and 34 years old. Teens, young adults, and college students are causing serious, sometimes irreversible damage to their bodies at a young age.
How Does Binge Drinking Damage The Liver?
Binge drinking harms the liver in ways that moderate drinking does not. In other words, damage from binge drinking occurs even if people aren’t aware of the harm drinking is causing their bodies.
According to the American Liver Foundation (ALF), “your liver is a vital organ that performs many essential functions. It filters out harmful substances from your blood, makes bile to digest food, stores energy and nutrients, and manufactures hormones, proteins, and enzymes your body uses to function and ward off disease.”
Binge drinking does more damage to the liver than most of us give it credit for. In fact, most Americans assume that liver cancer and cirrhosis are caused by years of heavy drinking.
A well-established fact in the medical community is that, “long-term heavy alcohol use is the most prevalent single cause of illness and death from liver disease in the United States” (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – NIAAA).
Perhaps a lesser-known fact is that a person could easily destroy their liver in college after four years of binge drinking and partying. Heavy alcohol use decreases healthy liver function.
With binge drinking, the liver becomes incapable of metabolizing alcohol, and then the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme becomes unable to break down acetaldehyde—which is highly toxic to the human body. This enzyme malfunction typically results in the following liver complications:
- Alcohol-Induced Liver Disease (ALD)
- Fatty Liver
- Alcoholic Cirrhosis
In a lab study by researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), they found that “binge drinking produced fatty liver tissue and triggered early stages of inflammation, both indicators of alcohol-induced liver disease. Binging also increased the levels of alcohol-metabolizing enzymes, whose activity can produce oxidative damage and other forms of harm to the liver.”
More from the UCSF study, “liver triglycerides were almost 50 percent higher in binge drinkers’ livers compared to mice that abstained from alcohol, and triglyceride levels in the blood were almost 75 percent higher… In contrast, moderate-drinking mice and mice that completed just one binge drinking session did not have significantly elevated triglyceride levels compared to abstainers.”
Other Risks Of Binge Drinking
The problems from binge drinking go much further than socioeconomics, and personal loss. Binge drinking can result in heart disease, cardiomyopathy, pancreatitis, decreased brain function, high blood pressure, stroke, and kidney failure.
Those who binge drink are also more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder such as alcohol abuse or alcohol dependency.
Dependency means that a person has a hard time quitting alcohol—it’s a physical addiction commonly referred to as alcoholism. When a person becomes dependent on alcohol, they continue drinking, even after everything else in their life falls apart—whether that means losing a job, failing health, destroyed relationships, or even homelessness.
According to NIAAA, “drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease. Chronic drinkers are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much. Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections—even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.”
The list of health problems stemming from heavy alcohol consumption is lengthy, but liver problems alone claim the lives of approximately 38,170 people per year. Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths per year and 2.5 million years of potential life lost (CDC).
Treatment For Alcohol Addiction
As you may already understand, it isn’t easy to quit drinking once you’ve developed a dependency on alcohol. Alcohol affects each person differently, but liver damage tends to be a constant variable.
Can you reverse liver damage from alcohol? Actually, one of the biggest problems is that many of the liver conditions that stem from binge drinking aren’t curable. However, quitting drinking can ensure that the problems don’t get worse.
Alcohol can lead to a physical and mental addiction, and thus each of these needs to be an area of focus in treatment. For a person suffering from an addiction to alcohol, treatment often starts with a medical detoxification. During this time, they’ll be in the care of professionals who can tend to each of their physical needs, including rest, diet, vitamin deficiencies, or fluid intake.
After detox, a lot of people benefit from behavioral therapy at an inpatient drug rehab center. Even if someone doesn’t develop alcoholism, or alcohol abuse, giving up drinking is harder than it sounds.
At an inpatient rehab, you’ll learn that you have what it takes to recover. You’ll be given the tools to successfully overcome alcohol abuse, addiction, and dependency, and prevent relapse in your life.
Some of the most common treatment modalities for alcohol are:
- Individual and Group Counseling
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Motivational Interviewing
- Medical Detoxification
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
- Alcoholics Anonymous
Don’t Allow Alcohol To Defeat You—Find A Solution Today
Alcohol can be really hard to stop using, and without help it becomes too much for most to handle. If you are struggling with alcohol moderation, and can’t stop drinking, contact us at AlcoholTreatment.net today. We can set you up with a treatment plan that meets your needs and helps you on the path to a sober life.
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