Alcohol - Binge drinking

Binge drinking usually refers to drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk.

Researchers define binge drinking as consuming eight or more units in a single session for men and six or more for women.

However, this definition does not apply to everyone because the tolerance and the speed of drinking in a session varies from person to person.

When drinking, try to pace yourself, avoid drinking more than you are used to and avoid drinking so much that you get drunk.

This is even more important if you are out in risky or unfamiliar circumstances. You can be at risk from others, and may not be able to look after your friends.

You can easily lose control of what you do or say and may make risky decisions, thinking you’re invulnerable.

Binge drinking increases the risk of heart attack. It could cause you to vomit and if you’re sick when very drunk you could breathe in your own vomit and suffocate.

Drink-by-drink guide

Below is a drink-by-drink guide, based on a standard (175ml) 12% volume glass of white wine and 4% strength pint of lager, showing how quickly alcohol can affect your mind and body.

One glass of white wine or a pint of lager (approximately two units):

  • You’re talkative and you feel relaxed.
  • Your self-confidence increases.
  • Driving ability is already impaired, which is why it is best to drink no alcohol if you're driving.

Two glasses of white wine or two pints of lager (approximately four units):

  • Your blood flow increases.
  • You feel less inhibited and your attention span is shorter.
  • You start dehydrating, one of the causes of a hangover.

Three glasses of white wine or three pints of lager (approximately six units):

  • Your reaction time is slower.
  • Your liver has to work harder.
  • Your sex drive may increase, while your judgement may decrease.

Four glasses of white wine or three and a half pints of lager (approximately eight units):

  • You’re easily confused.
  • You’re noticeably emotional.
  • Your sex drive could now decrease and you may become less capable.

Bear in mind that some people (including young people, those with smaller builds and women) may experience the effects after drinking smaller amounts of alcohol.

If you have developed a tolerance to alcohol you may find that some of these effects do not apply to you.

In that case, consider whether it is time to cut back on your drinking or whether you need to seek help.

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