Copyright © Ministry of Health Singapore. All Rights Reserved.
As Chinese New Year approaches, you may find yourself embarking on the time-honoured tradition of catching up with friends and family over copious amounts of alcohol.
While you may write it off as a once-a-year thing, social drinking can quickly spiral into binge drinking with long-term harmful effects. Binge drinking is defined as having four or more standard drinks in one drinking session for females and five or more for males.
The bigger problem is that in today‘s culture, drinking is regarded as an acceptable vice and even a celebrated habit. This is despite the fact that the harmful
effects of binge drinking have been well researched and published.
Many heavy drinkers see their drinking habits as a matter of choice and within their control rather than an addiction, which is the reason why alcohol abuse often goes undetected until it is too late. Understanding the triggers that lead to drinking may heighten one‘s self-awareness and help drinkers to notice early if they are slipping into a pattern of regular binge drinking.
How Much Is Too Much?
Many of us who lead fast-paced lives, juggling multiple commitments such as family and work, deal with anxiety and stress on a daily basis. Turning to alcohol is often a way of relaxing or suppressing the emotions that we do not want to face.
A common reason that people drink alcohol is for that ‘high’ feeling. This is because your brain releases the feel-good chemical dopamine when you drink alcohol. However, over time, your body builds tolerance and more alcohol is required to reach the same ‘high’, hence leading to binge drinking.
Young persons looking to assert their newfound independence may turn to drinking as a display of freedom or rebellion against authority. Others may fall into the people-pleaser category, giving in to frequent requests to ‘drink another’ or ‘bottoms-up’. Yet another group may see drinking as a way of projecting a ‘macho’ or even ‘girl-power’ image. They have been conditioned to think that the more they drink, the greater their social value.
It is easy to let your guard down at celebratory occasions. At happy or special events, people are often more uninhibited and willing to go beyond their usual limits. As such, one toast often turns into one too many. Even those who do not normally drink are also more likely to consume alcohol during such events.
Alcohol - More than Meets the Eye
So now that we know the triggers of binge drinking, let‘s look at some practical ways to stop binge drinking:
Stopping completely may sound like an extreme solution, but it is actually easier than practising moderation. This is because every time you have a drink, you are more likely to have that second and third, and the cycle continues. If you have tried to quit binge drinking and failed, abstaining from alcohol may be worth a shot. You can start by giving yourself an abstinence period (e.g. one month) as a target.
One of the most effective ways to cut down on drinking is to slow down your pace. Your brain needs time to catch up, and when you‘re having your fourth drink, your body may only be starting to feel the effects of your second drink.
Try alternating your alcoholic drinks with water to regulate your pace. Also, don‘t just sit and drink! Stand up, dance, socialise and make that drink last.
It may be worth keeping a diary to note down details such as when and whom you had your last drink with. After some time, you should be able to see patterns emerge. Knowing which situations end up in a binge drinking session can be very helpful in dealing with the problem.
If you realise that going out for dinner usually ends up going to a bar, you may want to replace some of those dinners with a sporting session or an activity that doesn‘t involve alcohol
If you‘re drinking to deal with issues such as anxiety, depression or stress, this is akin to placing a small piece of sticky tape over a burst water pipe. Eventually, your problems will still emerge, so why not start working on the underlying issues sooner, rather than later?
Alcohol and Health - Set Your Drinking Limits
Like dealing with most addictions, you will need a plan and a realistic time frame to achieve your goals. There is a possibility that despite your best intentions, you may find yourself nursing a bad hangover after succumbing to yet another binge drinking session. Remember not to beat yourself up when this happens, and keep persevering.
The following tips will help you feel better after a binging session, but do remember that these are only temporary solutions and that the effects of alcohol abuse will continue to affect you in the long run.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which is why you find yourself going to the toilet more frequently when you‘re drinking. This can cause dehydration, so it‘s important to hydrate yourself.
Drinking too much can cause stomach aches. This is because consuming alcohol can cause your stomach to work overtime to produce stomach acids, which can contribute to stomach upsets. Having some bland food will help you feel better. Combining complex carbohydrates such as whole grains with proteins such as a hard-boiled egg or grilled chicken will also help to stabilise your blood sugar levels.
Going for a brisk walk or swimming a few laps the next day may help to boost your endorphins and put you in a better mood. Remember not to push yourself too hard as your body is in a weakened state.
You may have heard the advice that the only way to cure a hangover is to drink more. This is untrue, and while the alcohol may produce a temporary numbing effect, you are ultimately only prolonging the unpleasant side effects.
Drinking Myths Busted!
Get someone to help monitor your alcohol intake, especially if you know you have a tendency to drink too much.
Stock up on less alcohol.
Instead of serving alcoholic drinks, consider serving non-alcoholic beverages such as tea, juices, or mocktails.
Non-alcoholic beer is getting more popular, and as a result, its taste and options are also improving. You can purchase non-alcoholic beer from major supermarkets.
Use an app to count the number of drinks you‘ve had. Being more aware will likely help you to control your intake.
Volunteer to be the designated driver. This way, you will have a good reason not to drink, and others won‘t force you to either.
Cut down on salty snacks, which tend to cause you to drink more.
Alternate an alcoholic drink with a glass of water.
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This article was last reviewed on
Tuesday, November 20, 2018
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