Increases in binge drinking and cases of alcohol poisoning in adults over 30 highlight the pervasiveness of our society’s perception of alcohol as a quick fix to the problems and insecurities in our everyday lives.
Binge drinking does not necessarily mean someone is alcohol-dependent (in fact, most are not), but the adverse health effects can be equally damaging, especially if blood alcohol levels become high enough to result in alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning kills more than 2,200 people annually, or more than six people each day in the United States alone.
When we think of binge drinking, thoughts often go to college campus drinking games and frat parties, but in reality, it’s the 30-something, $75,000-household-income-professional engaging in these high risk behaviors. Men are twice as likely to engage in binge drinking as women and average just over 12 episodes per year. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report indicates more than 75 percent of binge drinkers are over 35, 75 percent of those were male, and the vast majority are white.
Binge drinking is defined as excessive drinking over a short duration that leads to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. Apart from the risk of alcohol poisoning, binge drinking also increases risk of death by auto-related and other accidents significantly, may cause brain and liver damage, cardiovascular disease, and unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, as well as pregnancies that result in children born on the fetal alcohol spectrum.
Alcohol poisoning results when blood alcohol concentrations result in neurotoxicity, leading to a malfunction of critical areas of the brain associated with vital operations like breathing, heart rate, and body temperature. Even after someone has stopped drinking, alcohol is still being metabolized and BAC levels can continue to rise for an hour or more following the last drink. For this reason, never leave someone alone who has been drinking excessively.
Why The Increase In Binge Drinking And Alcohol Poisoning?
The rise in binge drinking and subsequent cases in alcohol poisoning deaths are not due to older populations growing less tolerant of alcohol. Instead, adults over 30 are drinking more. The reason for the increase is not yet known definitively, but theories range from less attention on alcohol-related deaths in older populations to media portrayals of alcohol use among this demographic.
Other theories include increased responsibilities as someone begins settling into a career or gets married and begins raising children. This might also explain the less frequent, but regular occurrence of binge drinking episodes as they coincide with weekends and other social gatherings.
Perceptions also change with age. Someone in their 30s might feel more in control and able to handle periods of heavy drinking better than someone in their early 20s. Men, who are far more likely to engage in binge drinking than women, tend to drink to feel more powerful. And women, who, until recent history, have been discouraged from public drinking, feel freer than ever to engage in social drinking and are encouraged by popular media and ad campaigns targeting them to do so.
As far as the increase in alcohol poisoning, that comes with the territory. The more a population engages in excessive drinking, the more likely they are to suffer from acute alcohol toxicity. The difference between the age groups, according to some experts, appears linked to some degree to media attention paid to one group over another.
When a college-aged student dies from alcohol poisoning, it makes the news. Our media is attuned to this age group in part because of public initiatives to reduce drinking in these populations. These same programs are just now emerging to counter billion dollar ad-campaigns by alcoholic beverage companies targeting the 30-something demographic.
Treatment And Prevention Of Binge Drinking And Alcohol Poisoning
Binge drinking usually relates to a social group, rather than an addiction to alcohol, so treating binge drinking involves changing habits surrounding the behavior. Peer pressure can be a powerful thing, even in our 30s, so knowing how and when to decline a drink is part of remaining in control of how much alcohol you’re ingesting at a social gathering. Ideally, no more than one drink over the course of a few hours is best. Substituting one drink with a non-alcoholic beverage is another simple way to avoid drinking too much too quickly.
In other cases, where binge drinking is problematic in a person’s life, it may be a sign of early addiction or psychological dependence on the drug. In this case, abstinence may be the best option as well as involving a support professional to help you get at any underlying causes for the excessive behaviors.
If you do engage in binge drinking or are around others who do, know the signs of alcohol poisoning. Someone with alcohol poisoning may begin vomiting, experience confusion, or pass out. Their body temperature usually drops, so they will feel cool to the touch and their skin may appear bluish (cyanotic) due to poor circulation of oxygen. Irregular or dramatically slowed breathing is a dangerous sign. Seizures may also occur. DO NOT leave someone in this state to “sleep it off” – this is how most people with alcohol poisoning die. Alcohol poisoning is treatable with help, so seek medical attention immediately.
Signs of Alcohol Poisoning:
- Loss of consciousness (passing out)
- Cool to the touch
- Skin may appear bluish (cyanotic)
- Irregular or slowed breathing
Treatment For Alcohol Addiction
If you or a loved one is suffering with an addiction to alcohol, AlcoholTreatment.net is your online resource for the professional support and evidence-based treatment options available to meet your individual needs. Contact us today and gain confidence about a comprehensive program that will work for you and discover a new and rewarding life in recovery.