Binge drinking

In Britain, it’s basically common knowledge that you go to the pub over the weekend. Downing five pints of beer while watching the match is honestly just another Sunday for most, but it can easily become problematic. Binge drinking can lead to serious health issues. So before you say ‘yes’ to another pint, get informed on your drinking habits and the potential risks.

A young woman is sitting on a sofa looking at her phone. She is wearing a black hoodie. This is a close-up image.

What is binge drinking? 

People drink for all sorts of reasons, mostly because in moderation, alcohol helps you relax and feel less awkward. But binge drinking is all about boozing just to get drunk.

There are tonnes of different definitions of binge drinking, and they tend to be a bit vague. The NHS defines binge drinking as ‘drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk’

Another common definition is ‘the consumption of twice the daily benchmark given in the Government’s guidelines’. In normal terms, that’s six to eight units for men and four to six units for women in one sitting.

How do I know how many units I’m drinking? 

Here are some rough examples of how many units are in typical drinks:

  • Half a pint of beer or cider = 1.5 units;
  • A small glass (125ml) of wine = 1.5 units;
  • A single measure of spirits (e.g. whisky, vodka, rum or gin) = one unit.

The number of units can vary for men and women as well as  depending on the brand of drink. For a better idea of your intake, check out Drink Aware’s unit calculator and add up all the units you’ve drunk this week.

Just remember: Every person is different in terms of tolerance. Above all, we recommend that you listen to your body and understand your limits. What is binge drinking for you, probably isn’t the same for your neighbour.  You should just keep these measures in mind as a general guideline.

What are the effects of binge drinking? 

Only you can take responsibility for your relationship with alcohol. Even though it may not be as fun as drinking it, it’s worth being aware of the impact that booze, specifically binge drinking, can have on your life.

  • Accidents happen: Statistically-speaking, if your blood alcohol concentration is sky high you’re more likely to harm yourself by falling into bushes or stepping out into moving traffic. Drunken drivers are another clear hazard, especially if you’re just along for the ride. It’s estimated that alcohol features in 20-30% of accidents, and if you’re completely wasted from a holiday binge session then obviously things are more likely to go wrong.
  • Crime time: Binge drinking can bring you into contact with crime in several ways. For example, drunken violence is associated with 76,000 facial injuries in the UK each year. Alcohol is a major factor in 33% of burglaries and 50% of street crime. In short, you’re vulnerable when smashed, and not in full control of your judgement, whether you’re the one swinging a punch because you’re plastered or receiving one.

Physical and mental binge drinking effects

  • Bad skin: A heavy bingeing session can cause dehydration, which means your skin can miss out on a supply of vital nutrients.
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate: Putting down 14 units of alcohol in one session can cause long-term heart problems.
  • Liver problems: Alcohol in the body is processed by your liver. A heavy session puts a big strain on this vital organ, and if you regularly drink this quantity you increase the risk of a disease called cirrhosis, which causes liver cells to turn to scar tissue. It may not seem like a big deal, but if the disease goes too far there is no cure. 
  • Foot in mouth disease: Heavy drinking messes with your coordination, not just physically but speech-wise, too. Getting seriously drunk might give you the courage to make a move at the office party, while not thinking about the repercussions. Statistics suggest one in five binge drinkers who manage to win someone over end up regretting it the next morning.
  • Binge behaviour: Binge boozing on a regular basis can shape your future drinking habits, often leading to a toxic relationship with alcohol.

What are the stats?

Well, you asked for it. In 2016 a survey found that the UK is the 13th worst country in the WORLD in terms of binge-drinking. What’s more, according to  a 2019 Scottish health survey , on average men aged 16-24 put down 10.1 units of alcohol a day. Safe to say, they aren’t thinking too much about the government guidelines. 

We know these stats can be overwhelming – but they’re the truth. As much fun as alcohol can bring, it can bring 10x the destruction if intake isn’t controlled. Stay informed and in control so that you won’t have to deal with the repercussions 20 years down the road.

Next Steps

  • Drinkaware offers advice and information on alcohol and your drinking habits.
  • Are you drinking too much? Drinkaware has a useful self assessment tool to help you discover if your drinking habits are healthy, or something to worry about.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.



By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 06-Aug-2021