Yesterday was Day One of my intensive 1 month ’Upgrading Morten’s Knowledge About Alcohol and Alcoholism’ school program. And I must say that it was a great first day! I was a bit confused about the blood alcohol concentration thing but thinking it terms of drinks per hour made it somewhat easier. It seems that there is general consensus that binge drinking is what happens if you consume 5 drinks in 2 hours as a man and 4 drinks in 2 hours if you are a woman.
I have been thinking about it a bit more today and I think that I probably reach that quantity at parties and at some social events. But not consistently during an entire night. I think. But I am actually not really sure. Because those intense hours when I drink the most I don't really remember afterwards.
And then I got a nice definition from Addiction.com. They prefer the term ‘alcohol-dependent’ rather than alcoholic because many binge drinkers may use alcohol to reduce stress and anxiety but they are not physically dependent on alcohol. And they often go for several months without consuming alcohol in large quantities. In fact, as I have learned today, at least 80% of binge drinkers are not physically dependent on alcohol.
And, still, according to alcoholrehabguide.org, it is binge drinking that accounts for most alcohol-related deaths! That really surprises me. I have always thought that in order for alcohol to cause deaths, it had to be a massive daily intake over a long period of time. For some reason, I have had the apparently mistaken impression that the human body was extremely resistant to alcohol and that it would require intense abuse to cause it to collapse completely. But I was apparently wrong.
And there are even several long-lasting side-effects of binge drinking before even starting to talk about its lethal effects. These include brain damage, liver disease, heart problems, cancer and infertility. And then there are all the accidental injuries such as car crashes, falls, burns, drowning and lowering of the body temperature to an abnormally low level (when binging outside). The University of Rochester Medical Center has a cheerful site about the host of injuries that come from binge drinking: Binge drinkers have an increased risk of killing someone, killing oneself, child abuse, domestic violence, high blood pressure, heart attack, pancreas and sexually transmitted infections.
For these serious and potentially extremely dangerous situations, they talk about ‘alcohol use disorder’, which is a pattern of drinking that is accompanied by failure to carry out everyday tasks, drinking in situations that are dangerous (e.g. while driving or using heavy machinery) and while having serious social problems.
I don’t really recognise myself in the descriptions of all of these symptoms and drinking patterns. While I have actually driven a car very drunk, it was a one-off experience and I usually don’t do anything dangerous when I am drunk. At least as far as I remember. But there are also a number of psychological side-effects of binge drinking that I can relate to. At Reachout.com, I found a list of short-term effects of binging: problems with self-esteem, feeling regretful all the time, hangovers (bad ones). Yes to all of them!
But I need to figure out why those are the side-effects of binge drinking. Is the reason why I get so insanely depressed and anxious caused by alcohol only or has it more to do with my general mental instability? In other words, how precisely does alcohol affect my psyche? Maybe I should talk to an adult specialist about this...