Posted on May 30, 2022, 6 p.m.
While some drugs carry a premium that excludes certain classes of people, alcohol crosses demographic lines. It could even be argued that alcohol rivals the diversity of other drugs because of the various ways it can be consumed. This not only includes the kinds of alcoholic beverages on the market but also includes how quickly people consume these drinks. One danger that falls into this category is binge drinking, which occurs when the blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches 0.08 percent or higher within two hours.
While binge drinking is typically portrayed as a night at the bar or a college drinking party that comes with a terrible hangover in the morning, it turns out that there are much more serious consequences to personal health. Here’s how binge drinking can lead to chronic high blood pressure.
Binging vs. Addiction
Binge drinking is not necessarily a sign of alcohol addiction, but it can certainly become a contributing factor to addiction. Alcohol addiction occurs when the body begins to crave alcohol because of the changes that occur in the brain over time. Binge drinking involves drinking an average of four to five alcoholic drinks within two hours, but this amount can vary from person to person. Since ongoing alcohol consumption affects the brain and how the body craves alcohol for its feelings of euphoria, more and more alcohol is needed to experience the same effects. Users might find that the more they binge drink, the more they will need to drink each time.
The aftermath of participating in binge drinking, such as hangover symptoms like migraines, dizziness, and diarrhea, might seem like a necessary evil for those interested in binge drinking every now and then. While even these symptoms of binge drinking periodically are danger signs that our bodies have been overloaded, we know these symptoms don’t last forever. This certainly motivates people to keep binge drinking, but other effects happening in the body go well beyond the passing symptoms of a hangover.
How Binge Drinking Affects Blood Pressure
The central nervous system affects the entire body (thoughts, moods, organ functions, etc.). Since alcohol is a central nervous system suppressant, it disrupts the messaging throughout the body. Blood pressure is included in this messaging system, and the signal disruption that excessive alcohol consumption causes can disrupt normal blood pressure levels. High blood pressure (hypertension) occurs when narrow arteries restrict the amount of blood your heart pumps. When more than three drinks are consumed in one sitting (even less than what qualifies as binge drinking), blood pressure is raised temporarily. Binge drinking will raise these levels even higher, and more frequent binges can cause chronic, ongoing symptoms of high blood pressure.
As stated earlier, when people start binging frequently, they will need more alcohol to get the same euphoric effects they experienced previously. Not only does this further increase blood pressure levels as the number of consumed drinks continues to climb, but it also brings an increased possibility of developing an addiction.
If this wasn’t enough compounded problems, the risk of trying to cut off alcohol consumption after addiction forms could result in various withdrawal symptoms such as stress, yet another contributing factor to high blood pressure.
Is High Blood Pressure from Binge Drinking Reversible?
It’s easy to see how binge drinking can set off a chain reaction of chronic high blood pressure, but what might not seem apparent is whether this is permanent. Alcohol brain damage is a real risk associated with ongoing alcohol use, and it includes the shrinking of white matter in the brain and a reduction in the part of the brain known as the hippocampus. The result of this disease includes the brain’s inability to send signaling correctly and maintain long-term memory and emotion regulation. These factors can prohibit the body from maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. The longer they are left untreated, the more likely they can become permanent.
The good news is the quicker these things are addressed, the more likely people can look forward to a full recovery. But this highlights why even something as seemingly harmless as binge drinking can have negative compound effects on the body, especially high blood pressure. While high blood pressure is dangerous enough on its own, it also serves as a foundation for greater risks, including heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems, according to the CDC.
The American Heart Association and other organizations recommend limiting alcoholic drinks to no more than two per day to prevent high blood pressure. While this is a good rule of thumb, we should always remember that substance dependence happens differently for different people. The safest way to reduce high blood pressure and maintain optimal health of the brain and the body is to avoid drinking alcohol altogether. But if you find yourself dependent upon alcohol and worried about the spikes in your blood pressure, it is important that you seek the help of medical professionals who can help you safely detox from alcohol.
This article was written for WHN by Kevin Morris from the Delphi Behavioral Health Group, a dedicated family of facilities committed to offering individualized treatment for all levels of addiction working to treat it at its core to provide those suffering with the tools to start a journey of long-lasting recovery.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine.
Content may be edited for style and length.
Materials provided by:
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