By Sandy Tschosik

We could all use a girl’s night out once in awhile. However, when it comes to having some cocktails with your gal pals, how much is too much? Do you think it is okay to binge once in awhile?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), defines binge drinking as the consumption of four or more alcoholic beverages for women (five or more for men), during a single drinking session. The CDC reports that one in six U.S. adults binge drinks four times a month, consuming, on average, eight drinks per binge. Unfortunately, North Dakota consistently ranks high in binge drinking among both adults and high school students. According to 2015 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, North Dakota had the highest binge drinking rate in the United States. Additionally, more than 90% of the alcohol youth consume is during binge drinking.

Heavy drinking, including binge drinking, is risky behavior and is associated with the following:

  • Unintentional injuries (motor vehicle accidents, falls, drowning)
  • Violence against others (sexual assault, shootings, domestic violence)
  • Unintended pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome and sudden infant death syndrome
  • Cardiovascular diseases (high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure)
  • Liver disease and cancer
  • Poor control of diabetes
  • Neurological damage (attention and memory problems, impaired decision making)
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Alcohol dependency and withdrawal symptoms (trembling, sweating, irritability, insomnia)

Unfortunately, this behavior is a widespread problem and a serious public health issue. The good news is that there are steps we can take to help address and prevent the dangers of consuming too much alcohol.

Choose not to binge drink

If you are going to consume alcohol, do so wisely and in moderation. “Moderation” means no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. One drink equates to 12 oz of regular beer (5 percent alcohol content), or 5 oz of wine (12 percent alcohol content) or 1.5 oz of hard liquor (40 percent alcohol content). Try to keep this in mind when you order that cocktail and note how many ounces of alcohol are actually in it before you order another. That one margarita may already contain more than one drink.

Drink slowly

Women feel the effects of alcohol quicker than men due to our body composition and how we metabolize it. We usually weigh less, have less muscle and more body fat, and our bodies contain less water compared to men. Since fat does not absorb alcohol, and we have less water in our body to dilute it, the alcohol content remains more concentrated in our blood stream. Women also have lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme that begins to metabolize alcohol in the liver before it gets into our bloodstream, resulting in a higher blood alcohol concentration.  Furthermore, on average, it takes the liver one hour to metabolize the alcohol in just one drink.  Consuming more than one drink an hour overwhelms the liver which can cause blood alcohol levels to rise quicker.  Even hormonal swings can speed up the rate of intoxication in women. The bottom line, even if a woman weighs the same as a man, and drinks the same amount at the same rate, she will always be more “tipsy” than the man. Again, know your limit. It may be wise to switch to a non-alcoholic beverage after that one glass of wine.

Never drink on an empty stomach

Food helps to slow the rate of alcohol absorption.

Talk to your kids

Tell your children about the dangers of alcohol misuse and binge drinking so that they are better able to resist peer pressure. Also, support the minimum legal drinking age.

Never drink and drive

Have a designated driver or take a taxi.

Avoid alcohol

Do not consume alcohol if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, you are on medication that can interact with alcohol, you have been diagnosed with alcoholism, or you are under the legal age limit.

Get help

If drinking is causing health, work or social/family problems please talk to your healthcare provider or counselor. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength.

We are given one life. It is an amazing journey that is meant to be cherished and shared with the people you love. So, celebrate all of life’s blessings, but please, if you choose to consume alcohol, do so responsibly. Cheers!  

Sandy TschosikSandy Tschosik was born and raised in Winnipeg. After earning her Bachelor of Nursing degree from the University of Manitoba, she decided that Canadian winters were too cold and moved “south” to start her nursing career in Bismarck. Sandy has a passion for motherhood, wellness, and hockey.