Binge drinking is the consumption of five or more drinks within a very short period. It is a common risky behavior among both adults and the teenagers and has been on the rise especially among the teenagers. It is most dangerous since the body does not have the capacity to process the alcohol quickly enough. According to Stewart (2009), alcohol enters the brain and the blood stream. As such, drinking a lot of alcohol at one time interferes with some of the brain functions, which control the basic functioning of the human body. Functions interfered with include reflexes and breathing. Interfering with the basic functions may cause an individual to pass out or lose consciousness. Additionally, vomiting and choking to death may be experienced as the gag reflex is impaired. Binge drinking in most cases leads to alcohol poisoning.
Binge drinking among the teenagers is higher compared to other ages as most of the adolescents increasingly become interested in experimenting with alcohol (McKay, Cole and Sumnall, 2011). Drinking problems among the teenagers are associated with certain short term negative outcomes such as problems at school such as bullying and exclusion, unplanned sexual behaviors, untended pregnancies, accidents, problems with police or parents and disagreements among friends (McKay, Cole and Sumnall, 2011). Most of the teenagers who begin taking alcohol at a young age may end up becoming alcoholics and alcohol-dependant in the adult years. According to Jeffries, Power and Manor (2005), binge drinking is heavily linked to high levels of both social and physical harm to the drinkers and those around them. Sabia (2010) notes that teenage alcohol abuse is associated with adverse health consequences, traffic fatalities, crime, out-of-wedlock teenage childbearing, lower socio-economic status and poorer quality marriages.
Impact of teenage Binge Drinking
One of the most common impacts of teenage binge drinking is increase in high-risk driving behaviors. According to Marcotte, Bekman, Meyer and Brown (2012), many adolescents see learning how to drive and attaining a driving license as a huge milestone in their lives. Attaining the driving license becomes a form of autonomy for the teenagers. However, such autonomy comes with its sets of associated risks. According to Marcotte, Bekman, Meyer and Brown (2012), in the United States traffic crashes are the leading cause of most teenage deaths. Binge drinking increases hazardous driving practices among the teenagers such as inadequate seatbelt use and driving under the influence.
Binge drinking among teenagers in their college years is a common phenomenon nowadays. The habit has shown detrimental effects on a person’s behavior. The most common effect is an increase in recklessness after a drinking episode. Such mood swings result in violence and fighting for no good reason. Binge drinking also lowers one’s judgment to various situations. Individuals may be more sexually violent and hence incidences of sexual assault may result. Sexually transmitted diseases have spread considerably due to the lowering of inhibitions concerning unprotected sex. Furthermore, numerous fatalities have resulted from drunk driving or driving under the influence. This may be in the form of car accidents or hitting of passengers. However, law enforcers have tried to curb the vice through regular checks of the drivers for driving under the influence (DUI) using special gadget and techniques and stiff penalties for law offenders (Stewart, 2009).
Binge drinking also affects one’s physical well-being. The process may be gradual with long-term effects or immediate depending on an individual’s health. Consumption of alcohol has a direct effect on various body organs. Its impact on the brain is demonstrated by the rapid changes in behavioral mannerisms of the consumer. The most common physical effects are slurred speech, blurred vision, lack of proper balance and an impaired status of one’s memory. All these culminate in a slow reaction to various stimuli. Some effects of alcohol consumption continue to linger long after one has attained sobriety. This case is especially common for persons who have become perennial consumers. Such brain deficits from the abuse of alcohol are common and scientists have developed relationships between detrimental effects of alcohol and its damaging effect on the human brain (Sabia, 2010).
The effects cannot be easily predicted and may range from lifetime conditions to seldom slips in an individual’s memory. Research shows the level of damage depends on the rate and quantity of alcohol consumed by an individual. One’s age at the time one started consuming is another factor that comes into play. If one starts consuming alcohol from an early age, the negative effects will be worse and more pronounced than for one who is mature at the time of starting. Genetics and a person’s literacy level may determine to what level the drug may take its toll on the brain. Brain damage related to alcohol abuse has been a cause of concern in the recent past with new and emerging therapies being discovered for purposes of prevention and treatment. Lapses in one’s memory are easily detectable in an individual after just a few drinks. A direct relationship exists in the increase in the number of lapses as the amount of alcohol consumed at a specific time increases.
Research shows that the alcohol takes a stronger effect when one is on an empty stomach. Furthermore, during such instances when the body is comparatively weaker, blackouts are more common. A black out is a short span of time when the individual cannot remember any event that transpired. Brain damage may occur as a direct effect of alcohol consumption or indirectly through the resultant poor health and liver damage. Research shows that brain damage affects women more than men and while shrinkage of the brain may occur due to excessive alcohol consumption. Alcoholism results in brain disorders due to deficiency of nutrients such as thiamine.
Alcohol and its Effect on the Developing Brain
The brain of teenagers is still under development. Alcohol consumption impairs any further development of the brain thus affecting maturity of the brain. Researchers have found that people with congenital syndromes such as fetal alcohol syndrome are prone to mental difficulties if they engage in binge drinking from an early age. This may result in certain forms of abnormal defects, both in the body and the brain. One of the effects of this condition is the fact that it results in smaller volume of the brain. Other than that, it also results in abnormal facial features that are indicators of the lack of proper development. Some scientists believe that since most of the development of stem cells occurs while one is still an infant, then this is the best stage to administer any form of corrective treatments and surgeries to any form of brain damage, due to various causes including FAS (McKay, Cole & Sumnall 2010).
Binge Drinking and the Risk of Addiction
With continued consumption of alcohol in a binge pattern, an individual becomes exposed to a high risk of developing alcohol use disorder. This is whereby one starts to develop laxity in delivering on expected day-to-day duties, including one’s career or job objectives. The drinking eventually starts affecting the personal behavior and the relationships of an individual. In many instances, continued drinking results in utter loss of control of the habit and eventually one develops a craving for drinking, almost stronger the craving for food. Ceasing of a drinking binge becomes extremely difficult and one becomes a prisoner of sort. This is normally the point that is referred to as an addiction or alcoholism. Any detrimental effects on the body are most pronounced during or after this stage. Alcoholism is inheritable from parents to children or from environmental factors such as the influence of peers and the availability of cheap alcohol. Brain development of young adults, between the ages of 21 and 25 years, is significantly affected by the development of dependence to alcohol use and abuse. Many students underperform even in their studies despite having excellent IQs when leaving high school (Stewart, 2009).
Alcoholism and the Brain
Brain damage related to alcoholism is dependent on multiple factors such as nutrition, age and one’s history of drinking. Researchers rely on neuroimaging of dead patients in determining the effect of alcohol on the brain. The extent of one’s brain damage may also depend on psychological factors such as depression. Researchers have formulated various hypotheses to explain how such damage on the brain from alcohol consumption occurs. Alcoholics have shown signs of premature aging or accelerated aging. This means that the brain of a young person who abuses alcohol is equivalent to that of an older person. Therefore, the brain is not as sharp as it ought to be as compared to others who do not consume alcohol (McKay, Cole & Sumnall, 2011).
Some areas of the brain such as the hypothalamus and the thalamus are more vulnerable to amnesic disorders that are alcohol induced. The effects of alcoholism equally affect the right hemisphere and the frontal lobe systems. The consumption of alcohol also has a significant effect on neurotransmitter systems. Brain atrophy, which is the shrinkage of the brain, is also one of the effects of alcohol consumption on the brain. In some rare instances, the limbic system is affected and hence the effect propagates resulting in cognitive impairments. During the years of one’s youth, the areas of the brain that are noteworthy in terms of brain development are the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens. The fact that these parts are not fully developed in most teens acts to create a greater experience from drinking for the young adult than for mature adults. This keeps the teen coming back for more and this may slowly become habit-forming.
Other than the common physical effects that binge drinking may have on the brain and general health of an individual, research shows that the death rate for binge drinkers is higher than that for more regular drinkers who do it in moderation. This is caused by the high degree of toxicity that the body is subjected to when one is binging. It is even riskier for older drinkers hence resulting in higher mortality rates. Incidences of alcohol poisoning are common among binge drinkers. In other instances, the heavy drinking may worsen mental health ailments. Respiratory arrests, extreme vomiting and various injuries from impaired judgment and locomotion also occur as negative consequences of binge drinking. This may cause serious injuries or even fatalities. Other effects of binge drinking among young adults include the increase in incidents of anemia, cardiovascular diseases, cirrhosis and cancer. Arrested development is one of the main concerns of binge drinking on the development of young adults (Jefferis, Power & Manor, 2005).
Research shows that chronic alcoholism affects motor and cognitive functionalities of the body. The drug has a direct influence on the functionality of neurotransmitters in the brain. These messengers are very important for transmission of signals in the body. Their inhibitory or excitatory nature in decreasing or stimulating brain activity is significantly affected by alcohol consumption. Alcohol enhances the secretion of dopamine in the brain. This is why the feeling of being drunk increases pleasure levels. Despite, the negative influence of alcohol on the brain, research shows that recovery is not necessary inevitable. However, it is harder for individuals struggling with persistent cognitive impairment. This is not the case for some chronic syndromes such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. The most common effects of alcohol on the brain are on the abilities affecting the visual space. This is why it is difficult to locate objects when one is drank and it becomes harder and risky to drive. However, considering the numerous effects that binge drinking has on the growth and development of young adults it is crucial for society to set up ways of making sure that people are enlightened of the cost of ‘having a good time’ in the name of binge drinking (Marcotte, et.al, 2012).
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