All about binge drinking

Having a good night out doesn’t always need to involve getting completely pissed. Binge drinking can be seriously bad for your physical and mental health and can have both short and long term effects. Beyond the impact on your health, there are other possible effects of binge drinking including it having a negative impact on your social life and relationships.

This might help if you want to know:

  • Want to know what binge drinking means
  • The side effects of binge drinking
  • If binge drinking is bad for you

What is binge drinking?

Binge drinking means drinking heavily on a single occasion, or drinking continuously over a number of days or weeks.

A person who binge drinks may usually have restrained drinking habits, but sometimes when they drink, they don’t hold back. Alternatively, someone may not necessarily set out to drink a lot, but may be unsure of their limits, resulting in drinking too much over a short period of time.

People can also be more likely to binge drink if they feel peer pressure to do so, or if they’re feeling awkward or uncomfortable at a party.

Is binge drinking bad for you?

Binge drinking can be seriously bad and harmful to your health. It can expose you to injury or to unnecessary risks to yourself and others. As well as having adverse short-term effects, binge drinking can also cause long-term effects on your health and wellbeing.

Short term effects of binge drinking

If you drink large amounts you're likely to experience a number of physical effects, including:

  • Hangovers
  • Nausea
  • Shakiness
  • Vomiting and memory loss
  • Injury to yourself or others
  • Alcohol poisoning

Alcohol is a major cause of injury and death among young people. When you’re drunk, you’re more likely to put yourself in risky situations, like getting into a car with someone who’s been drinking, or being the perpetrator or victim of violence.

Long-term effects of binge drinking regularly

Continuous heavy drinking over a long period of time can lead to:
  • Physical and psychological dependence on alcohol
  • Significant damage to the brain and liver
  • Risk of cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breast 
  • Possible increased risk of neurological disorders, heart problems
  • Sexual problems (especially male impotency)
  • Risk of emotional and mental health problems developing, such as depression and anxiety
  • Problems at school, work and with relationships

Other possible effects of binge drinking

In addition to the health risks, binge drinking may also impact your self-esteem and social life; because you may find yourself doing things when you’re drunk that you wouldn’t normally do if you were sober. 

Being drunk affects your judgement and may lead to you:

  • Have unprotected sex, or unwanted sex. This could lead to unplanned pregnancy or STIs
  • Feel bad about yourself and embarrassed by your actions
  • Lose friends or loved ones as a result of your behaviour
  • Lose money that you need for other things after reckless spending on alcohol
If you think you might be drinking a bit too much and potentially have a problem, check out our fact sheet on drinking problems.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 09 August, 2016
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