Binge Drinking Ireland

Hi my names Sinead Nolan and I’m a binge drinker. My friends would say I’m normal because like most people I enjoy a good night out. I think nothing of drinking a ridiculous amount at one time, far above the guidelines for a woman. Not that these nights are very often but when they come along, the aim is usually to get so drunk that I am not really aware of what is going on – a hazy night with vague recollections of booze and dancing.

It’s an ordinary Saturday night and my friends and I are getting ready to go out. My friend is pouring a generous serving of vodka into each glass and topping it up with lemonade. After all, we deserve it. Plus, we’re celebrating – I just turned 25. The trouble is there always seems to be an excuse – exam results, college, and well now, we’re career women in our 20s, why shouldn’t we have a little fun?  

Tonight will probably follow the usual pattern. Drinking at home and then calling a taxi to bring us into town. By the time we leave the house we will already have gone well over the definition of binge-drinking which is six units for women in one day.

In a pre-bar, a few rounds of shots will be downed – tequila or sambucca. Then we will head to another bar to hook up with friends, where several more drinks will be had. After that, everyone will head to a club. All night, the drink will continue to flow at this rate, until people either forget where they are – or have to be put into a taxi home.

So is this behaviour normal? And above all, is it safe?

According to a new survey out this month from the European Commission, it has been found that Ireland has a binge-drinking rate three times higher than the rest of the European Union.

This may not surprise you, but as a result, we Irish women are facing a bleak future. In a few years some of us will be suffering from more then a bad hangover. A catalogue of drink related problems fall in the wake of regular binge drinking. From cirrhosis of the liver and cancer, to high blood pressure and mental health problems. Not to mention the short term risks we take such as walking home alone or going home with strangers – putting ourselves at risk for rape and unwanted pregnancy.

“Drinking to drunkenness increases your risks of ending up in the Accident and Emergency Department, getting involved in a fight, not getting home safely, and of being robbed or sexually assaulted,” warns Chief Executive of Meas, Fionnula Sheehan.

And women are at more risk from this problem then others, not only because they are more vulnerable but also because they get drunk faster.

I get ready for a night of binge drinking

“Many people believe that women can hold their drink as well as men,” says Fionnula. “However, this is not true. Women build up a higher concentration of alcohol in their blood having drunk the same amount as a man. Even if a women is taller or bigger than a man, women have proportionally less body water than men so the concentration of alcohol in their blood stream is proportionally higher.

“Simply illustrated, if a woman weighing 60 kilograms drinks a double gin then a man of the same size will need to drink a triple gin in order to reach the same blood alcohol level.”

But even if you are lucky enough to avoid an accident or an attack you are definitely in for one consequence if you insist on regular binge drinking.

“Research suggests that repeatedly subjecting the brain to the effects of withdrawal from the presence of large doses of alcohol i.e. having what people would term drinking ‘binges’, could damage brain cells even more than continuous drinking,” says Fionnuala who also advises some things you can do this summer to look after your own safety.

“I would encourage young women to keep an eye out for friends on a night out. To make sure their mobile phone is fully charged and to make contact if they get separated over the course of the night.”

“Use the standard drinks calculator on drinkaware.ie to find out exactly how many standard drinks are in their usual. On the site you can also find recipes for low-alcohol cocktails as well as hints and tips for responsible drinking on a night out, a party at home or at a summer barbeque. The new edition of the www.drinkaware.ie Festival Survival Guide is now also available to download.”  

“I’m never drinking again. Ever,” comes the cry the next morning from my friend. But the thing is she will, we all will. And it will probably take something serious to happen to convince us otherwise.

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