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The Sobering Truth About Binge Drinking

By Sophie Hull

The Sobering Truth About Binge Drinking

A couple of drinks are fine, right? Everyone does it… but did you know that for a woman, having 4 or more drinks in one sitting is considered binge drinking? (For guys, it’s 5 or more drinks.)

Whether you’re toasting to a special occasion or treating yourself after a hard week, binge drinking puts you at risk of violence, car crashes and unplanned pregnancies. Beyond the safety issues, binge drinking can lead to long-term health issues, including liver and heart diseases, certain cancers and sexually transmitted diseases.

Who does it?

Sadly, 1 in 6 Americans binge on alcohol more than 4 times a month, says the CDC, especially people ages 18–24 years old.

How binging affects you

As women, the differences in our body structure cause us to absorb more alcohol, and it takes longer to remove it from our bodies, making alcohol’s effects occur more quickly and last longer.

Binge drinking can disrupt our menstrual cycle and increase our risks of infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature delivery.

If the health implications aren’t enough to convince you, consider this: alcohol dehydrates you, making your skin appear dull and tired and your hair and nails brittle. And at 7 calories per gram, alcohol contains more calories than many foods—bad news for your waistline. In fact, women who drink heavily regularly consume 30 percent more calories than women who drink in moderation, says The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Drink Safely

  • Never drink if you are or could be pregnant.
  • Never drink and drive.
  • Eat before drinking so the alcohol is absorbed more slowly.
  • Order a glass of water or soda with every alcoholic drink.
  • Set a limit on the number of drinks you’ll have and stick to it.
  • Have a good answer ready for someone who offers you one beyond your limit, such as “I’d love a lemonade” or “I’ve got a big day tomorrow.”
  • If you take medications, check with your healthcare provider if you should be avoiding alcohol.
  • Have a designated driver when out drinking with friends; if that fails, call for a taxi.
  • Never let a friend who has been drinking drive you or themselves anywhere.
  • Replace meeting for drinks with a healthier habit, such as enjoying dinner or a shared hobby.

 

What’s Your Poison?

US Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 1 alcoholic drink per day for women. That’s 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol—or less than half of the standard 1.5 ounce “shot.”

Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer or wine cooler
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey.)

Serving sizes matter; a single cocktail may in fact contain as much alcohol as 3 standard drinks.


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