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Binge Drinking and Alcohol Poisoning

Please find the following information about binge drinking and alcohol poisoning below, which outlines the definitions, health risks and actions people should take if someone has alcohol poisoning.

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is when you drink a lot of alcohol on one occasion, usually in a short amount of time. 

Researchers have defined binge drinking as 4 or more standard drinks of alcohol for women and 5 or more standard drinks of alcohol for men.

Why is Binge Drinking a Concern?

When you binge drink, you increase the risk of various health and safety concerns including:

Short Term Health Risks of Binge Drinking

  • Violence – fights, intimate partner violence, and child abuse.
  • Risky sexual behaviors – unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, and increased risk of sexual assault. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.
  • Alcohol poisoning – a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels.
  • Unintentional injuries – traffic injuries (drinking and driving), falls, drowning, burns, and unintentional firearm injuries.

Long Term Health Risks of Binge Drinking

  • Heart problems – heart attack, heart disease and high blood pressure.
  • Cancer – cancers of the head & neck, liver, colon, and breast. In general, the risk of cancer rises with increasing intake of alcohol.  If you drink & smoke cigarettes, the risk of developing certain cancers is even greater.
  • Mental health problems – alcohol dependence, depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Social problems – unemployment, financial crisis, and family/friend problems.
  • Damage to your liver, stomach and brain.

What is Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning happens when a person drinks too much alcohol for their body to process (often with binge drinking) and can harm normal body functioning.  Alcohol poisoning is extremely dangerous and a medical emergency.  Signs of alcohol poisoning include: 

  • Semi-conscious or not being able to be woken up
  • Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin
  • Vomiting while sleeping
  • Slow or irregular breathing (or stopped breathing)
  • Seizures
  • Incontinent of urine

What to do if someone has Alcohol Poisoning:

  • Call for help (911)
  • Put person into the recovery position by turning them onto their side, tilting their head back, tucking upper hand under chin to keep airway clean and bending their leg for support
  • Stay with the person until help arrives
 
Date of creation: March 1, 2013
Last modified on: August 14, 2017
 

References

1Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2008).Partying and Getting Drunk [Brochure]. Toronto, ON. Retrieved from
http://www.camh.ca/en/education/about/camh_publications/Pages/binge_drinking.aspx
2Canadian Public Health Association. (n.d.). Binge drinking and alcohol poisoning: straight talk for parents. Retrieved from
http://www.cpha.ca/en/programs/portals/substance/article02.aspx
3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Fact Sheets – Binge Drinking. Retrieved from
http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm