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Drink Wisely: The Dangers of Binge Drinking
Deaths resulting from drug overdosing are a common occurrence, but binge drinking (getting drunk) can be just as fatal. This isn’t simply due to the risky behaviours associated with drinking, but the effect of excessive levels of alcoholic content on the body itself.
Quoting Dr. Vilma Gawryszewski in the on-line version of the journal “Addiction” CBC news reports that alcohol was the key factor in approximately 80,000 deaths throughout the Americas between 2007 and 2009. The mortality rate was high particularly among men. In Canada and the U.S., the mortality rates from alcohol consumption were 5.7 per 100,000 deaths and 6.7 per 100,000 deaths respectively. Also, in these countries (along with a few Latin American countries) the highest mortality rates were among those aged 50-69.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) issued a report in 2015 with similar findings: When it came to deaths from acute alcohol poisoning (occurring between 2010 and 2012), the majority of victims were men between the ages of 35 and 64. Men aged 45-54 had the highest death rate: 25.6 deaths per 1 million people. We may be tempted to categorise these victims as alcoholics, but the CDC points out that 90 percent of binge drinkers are not alcohol dependent.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH) “alcohol poisoning occurs when there is so much alcohol in the blood stream that areas of the brain controlling life support functions-such as breathing, heart-rate, and temperature control-begin to shut down”. Symptoms include: confusion, lack of consciousness, vomiting, seizures, difficulty breathing, slowed heart rate and low body temperature. When excessive amounts of alcohol circulate through the body, the alcohol becomes poisonous and potentially fatal.
NIH also warns that cold showers, hot coffee, or walking are ineffective against the effects of alcohol poisoning and could actually make things worse. Also, it is dangerous to induce vomiting if the person’s gag reflex is inhibited (as is usually the case with alcohol poisoning).
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also warns against mixing alcoholic drinks with energy drinks. Alcohol slows you down mentally and physically, while caffeine does just the opposite, it speeds up those functions. This can lead to excessive drinking without realising it, and increases the risk of alcohol poisoning.
The Searidge Foundation gives the following recommended course of action if you suspect alcohol poisoning:
- Call 911 immediately
- Keep the individual awake
- Keep them in a sitting position if possible (if the victim is unconscious then keep them on their side to avoid choking)
- If possible, provide water (not coffee)
- Do not leave the victim to sleep it off or walk it off, and avoid dousing them with cold water
The effects of excessive alcohol drinking present a much more immediate danger than the outward manifestations of physical violence and risky behaviour. As explained in this article, the effects are no different from that of a drug overdose. The most interesting fact is that excessive alcohol consumption, and by extension alcohol poisoning, occurred the most among middle age men. However, researchers could not give an explanation as to why this was the case.
The best way to avoid alcohol poisoning is to consume moderately. Also, avoid drinking on an empty stomach. This can slow the rate of alcohol absorption somewhat, but it cannot prevent poisoning if binge drinking occurs.
So the next time you celebrate with a drink, keep the danger of alcohol poison in mind and you and those around you will be that much safer as a result.
- Drink Aware: Https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/check-the-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/effects-on-the-body/alcohol-poisoning
- Alcohol Overdose: The Dangers of Drinking Too Much: Http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AlcoholOverdoseFactsheet/Overdosefact.htm
- Alcohol called ‘important cause’ of premature death: Http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/alcohol-called-important-cause-of-premature-death-1.2496275
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police: Alcohol: Http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cycp-cpcj/dr-al/al-eng.htm#mix
- Alcohol Poisoning: How Dangerous Is It?: Http://www.searidgealcoholrehab.com/article-dangers-of-alcohol-poisoning.php
- Alcohol Poisoning Deaths Are Most Common in Middle Age: Http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/01/alcohol-poisoning-deaths-are-most-common-in-middle-age/384360/
- Alcohol Poisoning Deaths: Http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/alcohol-poisoning-deaths/