The Effects of Binge Drinking on the Body
Many people, especially college students, engage in binge drinking either to combat stress or simply to party. But heavy alcohol consumption, even from one night of binge drinking, can lead to serious health consequences.
Read the infographic below to see how alcohol affects your body. Then keep reading to learn some effective ways to relax, have fun and manage your stress and emotions without resorting to heavy drinking.
Why Do People Binge Drink?
Before you even started reading this, you probably already knew that binge drinking isn’t good for your health. Drinking is one of those things that is commonly known to be harmful, and yet people do it anyway. Why?
As with all behaviors, people binge drink for a reason. Understanding those reasons and addressing them is key to changing the behavior. Let’s look at the factors that can cause good, smart people to engage in this destructive behavior.
Reasons for binge drinking fall into two general categories:
- Recreation/Social Purposes
- Stress Relief
Recreational and Social Drinking
Alcohol is commonly accepted as a normal part of a fun evening with friends. But it’s easy to over-consume, leading to consequences ranging from mild to serious, including:
- Poor Judgment, Doing and Saying Illogical Things
- Vomiting (and Even Death From Swallowing Vomit)
- Fatal or Disabling Car Accident
- Rape, Assault, Robbery
- Long-Term Health Problems
Drinking to Cope
In addition to drinking too much during a night of partying, binge drinking is a common response to stressful life situations, including:
- School or Workplace Stress
- Relationship Difficulties
- Peer Pressure and/or Not Feeling Accepted
- Major Life Changes
- Traumatic Experiences
- Feelings of Purposelessness
Since everyone experiences at least one of these situations at some point in their life, especially during the tumultuous college-age years, it’s important to recognize these risk factors and come up with a plan to handle them.
How to Replace Binge Drinking with Healthier Habits
There are better alternatives to binge drinking when it comes to having a good time and/or managing stress. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Healthy Ways to Relax
It’s natural to want to kick back and relax after a long day, especially with friends. But booze doesn’t have to be a part of that scenario.
Consider these modifications to your happy hour or late-night routine:
- Opt for a non-alcoholic drink like a chocolate shake or a virgin version of your favorite mixed drink.
- Instead of going to the bar with friends, invite them to play a game of Frisbee, watch a movie in the theaters, or pretty much any fun activity that doesn’t involve alcohol.
- If you’re an introvert, relax by yourself or with a small group of friends instead of going to a big party or club where you’ll be expected to drink.
- Go to a coffee shop instead of a bar.
Don’t be shy in telling your friends and family members up front your reasons for abstaining from alcohol. Explain your reasons for doing so and encourage them to help keep you accountable. If they truly care for your well-being, nine out of 10 times they will understand and not push you toward drinking again, and that includes not trying to talk you in to accompanying them to a bar or a big party.
Additionally, or perhaps alternatively, try to cultivate friendships with people who don’t drink alcohol. When you hang out with people who know how to have a good time without alcohol, it’s easier for you to do the same.
Healthy Habits to Cope with Stress
Drinking to excess is often caused by stress. Develop alternative methods of dealing with stress and reducing the amount of pressure you’re under.
Try to make improvements in the following four areas:
- Exercise: This doesn’t just mean going to the gym; you can also take up a sport or fitness hobby. The idea is to let off steam and give your body the health benefits of exercise.
- Work Fewer Hours: If you’re in school, consider taking fewer credits per semester. If you have a job, try to reduce your hours, or find a better-paying job that allows you to earn the same amount of money but work fewer hours.
- Get More Sleep: The internet will go on without you. Netflix will still be there tomorrow. Trust us on this. Sleep is when your body heals itself and grows stronger, so it’s not optional; it’s essential.
- Eat Healthier: Even if you can’t eat like a saint, pick at least one way you can eat better and start there. Perhaps it’s cutting out junk food or desserts.
Having enough sleep and the right nutrients will make your head clearer and your emotions calmer, which will help you better handle whatever stress life throws at you.
But some issues require more than enough rest, exercise and food, which brings us to our last (but very important!) key to putting an end to binge drinking…
Get Help Early
It’s critical to address any underlying causes of unhappiness that send you in search of booze. If you’re experiencing problems that just don’t go away, such as relationship difficulties, anxiety, mood swings or the blues, don’t wait for them to clear up on their own, because they will probably get worse the longer you wait.
Yes, we’re telling you to get professional help. There’s no shame in seeing a counselor or psychologist, even if you think your problems aren’t that bad.
Don’t compare your difficulties to those of other people. If your problems are driving you to drink, they’re bad enough to warrant getting help.
Just as doctors recommend preventative health care to avoid ending up in the hospital, many people also need preventative psychological care to avoid a major drinking problem.
Get the help you need now, before your problem – and your drinking – takes over your life.