Binge drinking is when you consume large amounts of alcohol in a short space of time. Although drinking large quantities of alcohol is common in the UK, it can be dangerous for your physical and mental well-being – but exactly how does binge drinking affect your health?

Find out more about how binge drinking affects your health below.


What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is where you consume very large volumes of alcohol in one session which can lead to sickness, hangovers, alcohol poisoning, and other health problems.

The NHS guidelines state that binge drinking is equal to roughly 8 units in a single session for men, and 6 units for women. That is the equivalent of four lower-strength (3.6%) pints of beer for men or three standard glasses of wine for women.

Binge drinking is also extremely common, particularly in young people in the UK. According to the charity Alcohol Change UK, more than a quarter (27%) of people who drink in the UK say that they binge drink on their heaviest days of drinking.

Binge drinking is known to be bad for your health, as drinking extreme amounts of alcohol puts organs such as your liver and kidney under pressure to filter out the alcohol content in your blood. But just how does binge drink affect your health?

Taken in moderation, alcohol is not always harmful, and some studies suggest it can even be beneficial. However, by drinking too much it is likely you will experience the negative effects of alcohol, which can cause long-term health problems such as liver disease, heart disease, addiction and more.

The Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines for both men and women say that you “are safest not to drink regularly more than 14 units per week, to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level”. It is also important to note that the guidelines do not say that drinking under this amount is safe, just that it keeps the health risks lower.


Signs of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking affects your health in a number of ways, so it is important to manage your drinking habits and seek treatment for alcohol abuse if you have a problem.

There are always risks when you consume excessive alcohol in a single session, but repeated or regular binge drinking can also lead to alcohol dependency or an alcohol use disorder. If you think you have a problem with your drinking, it is always best to seek help immediately, whether that is through your GP or contacting an alcohol rehab for advice.

Some signs of binge drinking and how it may be becoming a problem include:

  • Strong cravings for alcohol
  • Drinking more than you planned to
  • Having no ‘off switch’ – finding it difficult to stop drinking once you have started
  • Drinking earlier in the day or more regularly
  • Getting defensive about your drinking
  • Avoiding activities where you can’t drink
  • Dangerous or inappropriate behaviour when drinking
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you do not drink
  • Having gaps in your memory or ‘blacking out’


How Can Binge Drinking Affect Your Health?

There are various ways binge drinking affects your health, from short-term problems such as alcohol poisoning, diarrhoea, and falls or accidents, to long-term issues such as vision issues or the development of eye-related conditions (e.g. optic neuropathy), liver disease, kidney disease and certain types of cancer.

Binge drinking large amounts of alcohol negatively impact your health, from your brain and heart to liver and kidneys, and is one of the more dangerous ways you can drink.

Binge drinking can also lead to substance abuse and problems with alcohol, which can also be difficult to spot if you are a social drinker. Even if you are not drinking every day, it does not mean that you don’t have a problem.

Find out more about the long and short-term effects of alcohol on your body and how can binge drinking affect your mental health:


Short Term Effects of Binge Drinking

Even a single session of heavy drinking can have serious impacts on your life and overall health. Getting very drunk can have a serious effect on your brain and body, potentially leading to sickness and vomiting, dehydration, slowed breathing and heart rate and, at the most extreme end of the spectrum, heart attack, coma and even death.

According to the Alcohol Education Trust, there were more than 500 deaths directly from alcohol poisoning in the UK in 2018. There were far more hospitalisations and binge drinkers can also put themselves at risk in other ways.

Alcohol and binge drinking can affect your judgement, coordination, mood, and behaviour. This can lead to poor decision-making and indulging in risky or even criminal behaviour. This could involve an increased risk of injury through accidents, having unprotected sex, getting involved in fights and other harmful behaviours.

Hospital admission is also much more likely if a person has been drinking – a study found that 70% of people arriving to A&E after midnight had a positive breathalyser test, which highlights the risk of drinking alcohol on physical health.


Long Term Effects of Binge Drinking

While one episode of binge drinking can be risky, repeated heavy drinking can be connected to even worse physical and mental health problems. Alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health, and disability among 15-49-year-olds in the UK, and the fifth-biggest risk factor across all ages. Regular binge drinkers combine the short-term impacts that could occur during every drinking session with the cumulative health effects that build up over time.

These can include various types of cancer, heart disease, liver disease, stroke, and brain damage. Women who binge drink in pregnancy risk causing harm to their baby and prolonged heavy drinking can easily lead to addiction.

Physical dependency may require alcohol detox and holistic addiction treatment may be needed to help you deal with the root causes of your drinking and associated behaviours.

How Does Drinking Affect Your Mental Health?

Alcohol can also cause you to experience a number of mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety and behavioural issues such as gambling problems. The cycle of substance abuse and binge drinking can also lead to low mood, which is why it is important to manage your drinking habits.

We can offer dual diagnosis treatment if you are suffering from alcohol addiction and mental health disorders. Just call today on 0800 880 7596.


Binge Drinking Prevention

If you feel you have a problem with your drinking, you might be able to rein in your alcohol consumption in a few simple ways. You could switch your regular drink to a less alcoholic version, use smaller measures and avoid situations where you know there will be heavy drinking.

The addictive nature of alcohol can make it difficult to cut down or quit without help, however. Addiction changes the way your system reacts to alcohol and can affect areas of the brain to do with pleasure, reward, and impulse control.

If you have a serious alcohol addiction problem, evidence-based treatment programmes offer your best chance of overcoming your drinking and will usually include detox, therapies aimed at relapse prevention and an aftercare programme to provide vital support after you leave.

Get in touch with us today to learn more.


    Ocean Recovery - Author - Last updated: February 9, 2024