Binge drinking (also known as ‘heavy episodic drinking’) is a pattern of heavy drinking when consuming more than 60 grams of pure alcohol on a single occasion. In Hong Kong, 60 grams of pure alcohol is equivalent to approximately 5 cans of beers/ 5 glasses of table wine/ 5 pegs of spirits. One occasion refers to a period of few hours.
Why people binge drink?
- According to the results of the Behavioural Risk Factor Survey conducted by the Department of Health, younger drinkers tend to binge drink.
- Various factors can contribute to binge drinking among young people. Apart from individual factors (such as prior experiences of alcohol use and personality traits), some aspects of the college experience and campus environment also play critical roles in shaping students’ binge drinking behaviours.
- With more autonomy, the shift from parental attachment to peer acceptance and the development of new peer networks may bring about more exposure to social activities, including alcohol-service parties, celebration drinking and hazardous drinking games
- Some people may resort to binge drinking for relieving stress.
Binge drinking can put you at risk of harms
- Excessive amount of alcohol consumed at one go increases the immediate risk of alcoholic poisoning, accidental injury, interpersonal violence, road traffic accidents and risk-taking behaviours such as unprotected sex.
- Each additional drink amounts to further increase in risk of harming yourself and others.
Binge drinking harms your liver
- Heavy drinking can cause inflammation of the liver, which can be reversible if you stop drinking. However, continued alcohol consumption can lead to permanent cirrhosis of the liver, which in turn increases your risk of developing liver cancer.
- International research shows that drinking even 1 drink (e.g. one 125ml serving glass of wine with 12% alcohol content) per day increases your risk of morbidity/mortality of cancers (for example, by 7% for liver cancer) and that the risk increases with the amount you drink.
Binge drinking can affect your work performance
- You may experience hangover after a night of heavy drinking. Symptoms such as fatigue, headache, muscle aches, thirst, dizziness, cognitive problems and mood disturbances can last up to 24 hours after heavy drinking.
- Binge drinking may therefore impair your work performance, often leading to work absenteeism, low work productivity and poor decision-making.
Binge drinking can increase your risk of alcohol use disorders.
- Long-term binge drinking is associated with a risk of developing alcohol use disorders, which include alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.
- Alcohol use disorders can lead to a whole range of serious physiological conditions (e.g. liver cirrhosis, stroke and high blood pressure), psychological problems (e.g. depression, anxiety, memory impairment) and social problems (e.g. domestic dispute, child abuse, interpersonal violence and work absenteeism).
- You may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop drinking, and it turns out to be a vicious cycle when you drink again to cope with the condition.
- To treat alcohol withdrawal syndrome, you may need to take medications, engage in outpatient or even inpatient treatment.
Binge drinking cannot help with your stress
- Binge drinking can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety in the long run, and make stress harder to deal with. This is because regular, heavy drinking interferes with chemicals in your brain that are necessary for good mental health and functioning.
- There are more effective ways to cope with stress other than drinking, such as exercise. Even a brisk walk can help clear your mind.
- A hot bath or some gentle stretches can relieve tension from your body.
- Talk to a trusted friend or colleague and come up some solutions with them
- For more tips for keeping a good mood, please visit the “Shall We Talk” website.
Don’t binge drink
- Don’t pressure your friends to drink and avoid drinking games.
- Make a plan of cutting down on alcohol and tell your family, friends and colleagues to seek their support.
- Don’t yield to peer pressure.
- Celebration and social gathering can be great without alcohol. When you choose to drink for social purpose, switch to non-alcoholic beverages.
- Help is here for you if you need professional advice.