Some facts of binge drinking that lead to anxiety and depression.
Posted on September 25th, 2011

Dr Hector Perera London

What is binge drinking?

For the NHS [National Health Service], binge drinking is defined as drinking over double the amount of recommended daily units in one session. For men this is over eight units, and for women, over six. However, because individuals are all different, the rate at which they reach intoxication varies. It says binge drinking is a major factor in accidents, violence and anti-social behaviour.

What is a unit?

One unit is 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. This equals one 25ml single measure of whisky or a third of a pint of beer or half a standard (175ml) glass of red wine.

How many units can I drink safely?

Drinking in moderation should not have any adverse health effects. For men, three to four units per day is considered a safe amount and for women the recommended amount is no more than two to three units per day. One thing, the Sri Lankan ladies hardly drink alcohol in public places or in bars unlike in England. In special occasions they might take a glass or two wines but not any more.

What is alcohol?

The type of alcohol that features in the alcoholic drinks is ethanol also called ethyl alcohol. Chemically C2H5OH is ethanol or ethyl alcohol that means there is an OH group directly to a carbon atom carrying two H atoms and a CH3 group. This kind of alcohol is called a primary alcohol which is suitable for drinking. If ethanol got contaminated with another alcohol such as methanol, it is absolutely unsafe to drink, could be fatal. Pure ethanol or 100% proof is lipid soluble, affects the normal working of membrane proteins by messing with cell membranes. Consumption of pure ethanol can cause acute ethanol poisoning.

Ethanol is made

Ethyl alcohol is made by different ways using, grains such as barley, fruits such mango, pineapples or vegetables through a process called fermentation. Then the yeast or bacteria react with the sugars in these substances and produce ethanol and carbon dioxide. This process is called fermentation and the process is known to even GCSE students as a part of the science syllabus.

Wine is made by fermenting grapes, barley or rye and cider is made by fermenting apples. The alcohol content increases with increase of time factor, longer it is stronger the alcohol content.

In making alcohol it is distilled at a certain temperature only known as fractional distillation. I know as a matter of information, illicit alcohol or “Kassippu” is distilled without a temperature control so that any kind of alcohol in the mixture distils over with ethyl alcohol. This is because these are done illegally, without licences by illiterate people. Since these barrels are kept hidden in bushes or in jungles, sometimes snakes, spiders or lizards as well fall into them and these people distil with them inside. Actually these illicit alcohols are absolutely poisonous; it might blind the drinkers apart from other damages.

Drinking alcohol is linked to both anxiety and depression. A recent British survey found that people suffering from anxiety or depression were twice as likely to be heavy or problem drinkers. Alcohol has also been linked to self-harm, suicide and psychosis.

Apart from affecting your mental health, consuming alcohol also affects your memory and brain function.

Soon after drinking alcohol, brain processes slow down because the impulses are slow to react. For example, the effect on men’s driving skills is measurable after the consumption of three to four units. At this level of consumption, alcohol is in the bloodstream at around 50mg per 100ml. Women can reach this same concentration by drinking just two or three units.

People often feel rough after a session of heavy drinking, feeling that their memory and thinking is impaired. It’s difficult to be sure whether this is a genuine effect, just part of the folklore about hangovers, or because there is still alcohol in the tissues the next day. Some people, even when they no longer have alcohol in the bloodstream, are probably slightly “ƒ”¹…”slowed’ mentally the next day.

Anxiety and depression

Self-harm and alcohols are often linked. In 2006, a survey was carried out among 3,004 self-harm patients at Scottish accident and emergency departments. It found that 62% of males and 50% of females reported consuming alcohol immediately before or while self-harming, and 27% of men and 19% of the women cited alcohol as the reason for self-harming.

Drinking and alcohol related problems are found in central London and in other parts of London as well. Most of the problems arise from teenage or people just passed that age.

Extreme levels of drinking (e.g. more than 30 units per day for several weeks) can occasionally cause “ƒ”¹…”psychosis’, a severe mental illness where hallucinations and delusions of persecution develop. Psychotic symptoms can also occur when very heavy drinkers suddenly stop drinking and develop a condition known as “ƒ”¹…”delirium tremens’.

I am sure, fortunately Sri Lankans haven’t got adopted that kind of behaviour but the main thing is alcohol damage the health system by consuming alcohol on regular basis. An occasional drink of wine or alcohol in moderate amounts cannot do much bodily harm but the problem starts if it carried on regular basis.

I can say some people drink in special occasions such as in Christmas, New Year, birthdays, get together dinners and in many more occasions, some people say, any excuse for a drink.

Progression

Heavy drinking can lead to work and family problems, which in turn can lead to isolation and depression. For heavy drinkers who drink daily, there can be withdrawal symptoms (nervousness, tremors, heart palpitations) which resemble anxiety, and may even cause phobias to develop, such as fear of going out.

Many years ago while I was residing in Negombo, I can remember there was a person in the same road who shouts in the evening after drinking, to some people it became something regular so they ignored it. Quite often in rural areas as people get drunk and show off by shouting but nobody cares, just ignore them.

Hospitals see some people who were once high performers mentally and intellectually, but who have severely damaged their brains due to drinking. Some people not only drink but smoke as well.

One very disabling type of brain damage due to heavy drinking (probably in combination with malnourishment) is when short-term memory fails. This means the individual may not be able to recall where he is, how he got there or what day it is.

Advice and Getting Help

Light or moderate drinking does not harm emotional balance. But heavy drinkers who have run into emotional problems are wise to avoid alcohol completely, because previous patterns often recur.

People prescribed antidepressants, sedatives, analgesics or drugs for epilepsy should avoid alcohol. People who have damaged the brain should not drink at all.

Older people drinking very lightly don’t need to stop on grounds of their age or because they fear it might harm their brain.

Heavy drinking sessions should be avoided by everyone, at all ages. If you do drink heavily, try to have a balanced diet, and if you do not, take B vitamin supplements.

Facts and figures

Drinking alcohol can contribute to the conditions that cause diabetes. There is evidence to suggest that heavy drinking can reduce the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which can trigger type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a common side effect of chronic pancreatitis, which is overwhelmingly caused by heavy drinking. One in three people who have chronic pancreatitis will develop diabetes.

Drinking can also increase your chance of becoming overweight and therefore your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is because alcohol contains a huge amount of calories “”…” one pint of beer can be equivalent to a chocolate bar.

In UK there is growing evidence that many young drinkers are consuming cheap alcohol at home before going out at night into bars and clubs, where prices can be three times as high. Around half of all Britain’s drink sales are made at the six major supermarkets, where drink is often heavily discounted in order to encourage shoppers into the stores. I have witnessed, a few youngsters also queue up for alcohols in Sri Lankan supermarkets, and this is something new because of supermarkets.

In some parts of London, at closing time back and front streets are crowded, some people dancing, men and women doing foxtrots and a group of women trying to do a fling. The police have an absolutely hard time to break up the brawls or drunken behaviour; sometimes they are locked up in cells until the following day. Some are charged but most of the time they are warned and released. Some problems the police have to deal are, swirling crowd, moving mass of mostly drink people, singing, playing mouthorgan, groups dancing about. Chaps fall over and their friends pick them up cheerfully and unconcernedly. A fight starts among three or four young men, one of the fighters is knocked out cold and the others carry him to the back of a stall or dump him on the pavement, sometimes in a litter of broken glass and bottles, sometimes scantly dressed women or two sit by themselves being noisily sick. The problem arises when Sri Lankans try to imitate like the drunken crowd in England. While these patterns of behaviour are very characteristic of what they take to be British drinking styles, they are not unique to this country. They are found elsewhere such as in other European countries,

 perera6@hotmail.co.uk

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