Drink to celebrate - in moderation​

There is always a good reason to drink: parties, festive celebrations or watching a soccer game with your pals.

But when one drinks excessively, it is hardly a case for celebration.

Binge drinking refers to excessive consumption of alcohol over a short period of time. For a male adult, this is about five or more standard drinks, and for female, four or more standard drinks, in one drinking session. Binge drinking can bring with it both short-term and long-term harmful effects [1].

Alcohol dependence

A person who drinks frequently, or drinks a lot may become addicted to alcohol.

Some signs of alcohol dependency include a strong urge to drink; the ability to drink larger quantities of alcohol without appearing intoxicated; persistent drinking; and undergoing withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop drinking [2].

Studies have shown that for each additional year earlier than 21 that an individual began to drink, the greater the odds that he or she would develop alcohol dependence at some point in life [3].

Short-term harmful effects: Alcohol poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is the most life-threatening consequence of binge drinking. When a person drinks too much, his or her body reflexes are affected. These include breathing and the pharyngeal reflex. The pharyngeal reflex, also known as gag reflex, helps to prevent choking. If this reflex is not functioning well, one may die from choking on his or her vomit.

Some other signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • lack of muscular coordination
  • blurred or double vision
  • drop in body temperature
  • low blood sugar concentration
  • low blood pressure
  • impaired judgement
  • coma

If a person shows signs of alcohol poisoning, lay him on his side and call for immediate medical attention. Alcohol poisoning can be deadly [4].

Long-term harmful effects

Drinking alcohol excessively and frequently for a long period of time can cause harm to several parts of the body.

Brain damage

  • Adverse effects on memory function, concentration, reasoning, planning and visuo-spatial skills.
  • Growth of the brain structure is affected.
  • Abnormalities in some areas in the brain
  • Stroke

Diseases in digestive system

  • Peptic ulcer, an ulcer usually found in the small intestine
  • Gastritis
  • Stomach cancer

Heart problem

  • Heart muscle disorders
  • Heartbeat rhythm irregularities
  • High blood pressure

Kidney damage

  • Kidney's function in maintaining body fluids, leading to kidney enlargement​

Liver disease

  • Liver function is affected
  • Development of fatty liver, which can lead to liver cirrhosis (scarring)
  • Alcoholic hepatitis (signs include swollen liver, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, bleeding, jaundice)

Psychological problems

  • Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and insomnia

Sexual and hormonal dysfunction

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Lowering of testosterone concentrations
  • Sperm growth is affected
  • Lowered fertility in women
  • Altered hormonal levels in premenopausal women, which increases the risk of osteoporosis

Skeletal muscle damage

  • Skeletal muscle myopathy (reduction of muscle weight and lean tissue wasting)​

Other alcohol-related problems

  • Accidents, injuries and high-risk behaviours: Drink driving accounts for a large proportion of those injured or killed in road traffic accidents. Also, alcohol abuse is associated with high-risk behaviours such as physical assaults and risky sexual behaviour.
  • Pregnancy and/or child developmental problems: Prenatal exposure to high levels of alcohol has been associated with a range of developmental problems such as foetal alcohol syndrome, causing permanent birth defects.
  • Lower participation and involvement in daily activities: Binge drinking and subsequent hangovers contribute to the loss of productivity and/or absenteeism.
Celebrations can still be fun without alcohol. But if you drink to celebrate, know your limits and stick to them to avoid regrets. 

Read these next:


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm Accessed 1 Feb 2022.

  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2021, "Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison between DSM-4 and DSM-5", Accessed from: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-use-disorder-comparison-between-dsm on 1 Feb 2022.

  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, "Early Drinking Linked to Higher Lifetime Alcoholism", 2006. Accessed from: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/early-drinking-linked-higher-lifetime-alcoholism-risk on 1 Feb 2022.

  4. National Health Service, "Alcohol Poisoning", 2019. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alcohol-poisoning/ Accessed 1 Feb 2022