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I only get drunk on weekends, so how could that be a problem?

If done regularly, or to the extreme, this is a problem in several ways. We have brain neurochemistry, general physical health, psychosocial health, and legal considerations.

Brain neurochemistry is perhaps the most important and least understood of the results of binge drinking. Kindling is the name for the phenomena of repeated intoxication and untreated withdrawal. Both clinical and research findings support this kindling hypothesis. Just as wood kindling may increase the fire for the wood burning stove, repeated intoxication and untreated withdrawal seems to increase the severity of the withdrawal symptoms over time. This has consequences such as increased risk of seizure and potential increased risk of delirium tremens, paranoia, hallucinosis, and auditory hallucinations. It is also possible that pain tolerance is permanently lowered. Addiction medicine research indicates that severe withdrawal must be treated medically to prevent these more serious consequences, followed by treatment for dependence.

The general physical health and psychosocial consequences of alcohol include increased sexual interest but lack of performance or ability. A remarkable increase in heart disease occurs as alcohol ingestion increases, as well as worsening diabetes and hypertension. As alcohol acts in the brain to decrease glutamate, and increase GABA, there is a sense of relaxation during drinking. However, as the alcohol level wanes, there is more difficulty with sleep, and less restful sleep. The whole brain is affected, with memory and transfer of short term to long term memory being seriously disrupted. Blackouts occur with rapidly rising BAC, particularly in the 0.14 to 0.20 range. Risk taking behavior increases as judgment and ability to say no decrease, and so accidents, violence and suicide increase markedly. Especially in women, liver function may be impaired by repeated binge drinking, as it is by chronic daily drinking. Medications for other problems, whether for depression, HIV, or birth control may be forgotten and lead to health management difficulties. Of course, it may seem normal for college students or workers to become intoxicated on the weekend. But when Monday comes, others will recall what they did (and probably what you did) over the weekend. Just ask local hospital staff or law enforcement about weekend drinking, and I’m sure you’ll hear that it is a huge concern.

An obvious deadly consequence is overdose and death from binge drinking. Many universities have attempted to prevent hazing activities which encourage vast amounts of alcohol ingestion in a very short time period. A number of people who die from overdose are binge drinkers, and not daily or regular drinkers. Don’t let this happen to you. Educate yourself further by watching the WYNK flash video on alcohol, and then others which seem relevant to your own situation.

by: Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D. L.P.

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