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The health effects of binge drinking

A woman vommits in the street after leaving a pub in Bath, England.
Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The health effects of binge drinking do more harm than health professionals previously thought. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers this explanation of binge drinking:

“Binge drinking means men drinking 5 or more alcoholic drinks within a short period of time or women drinking 4 or more drinks within a short period of time.”

The unhealthy behavior of binge drinking causes close to 80,000 deaths each year. Over 38 million United States adults binge drink.

Surprisingly, most people who binge drink are not alcoholics or dependent on alcohol. However, according to the CDC most alcohol-impaired drivers binge drink.

The health effects of binge drinking

Recent studies suggest binge drinking impairs the healing of bones—even weeks after a binge. According to John Callaci, Laboratory chief at Loyola University Molecular and Cellular Bone Biology,

“Alcohol is a toxin affecting thousands of genes. We have hypothesized that alcohol affects stem cell homing to fracture sites, and stem cell differentiation of these cells into mature chondrocytes and osteoblasts—the cells that heal the fractures. But it is likely that both are correct.”

Binge drinking is associated with a number of health problems. Here's a list of the health effects of binge drinking:

  • Poor control of diabetes
  • Sexually transmitted disease
  • Unintended pregnancy
  • Children born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
  • Neurological damage
  • Liver disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Intentional and unintentional injuries, such as falls, burns, drowning, car crashes, domestic violence, sexual assaults, and firearm injuries

Preventive measures to stop binge drinking

The third leading cause of preventable deaths is excessive alcohol consumption. Everyone can help, including federal, state, and local governments. For instance, communities can track the number of people in their area who binge drink. Local governments can implement strategies to prevent excessive drinking in their communites. Healthcare providers can assist local governments to screen patients and offer ways to help them reduce the amount of alcohol they consume.

People can make a choice to drink moderately. They can also support the legal drinking age of 21--while helping to control marketing and sale of alcohol in their communities.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines on alcohol consumption recommends that no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. Pregnant women and underage youth should not drink alcohol.

Providing community awareness

Enlightening individuals and providing community awareness concerning the persistent problem of excessive alcohol consumption, underage drinking, advertising and media exposure of alcoholic products to adolescents, dangers of drinking and driving are just some of the areas everyone (including governments) can help in preventing excessive alcohol use.

The CDC offers a list of resources on the health effects of binge drinking, as well as help on alcohol-related problems at the following website:

Read more of George Zapo’s articles pertaining to public, global, and environmental health at his website:

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