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Binge Drinking During the Holidays

Rosanne Ullman | December 18, 2016 | 1:30 PM
Photo By Caiaimage/Tom Mertonf for Getty Images

Party-hopping is a holiday tradition, but if you’re heading down that road be prepared for how it will affect you. Binge drinking, defined as more than three drinks within a three-hour period, can cause dehydrations, headaches, skin breakouts and a feeling of sluggishness. You already know this. Dr. Sanam Hafeez, an NYC-based licensed clinical psychologist, provides four ways your body tells you to slow down or stop drinking. 

  1. Your personality changes. Alcohol triggers a quick increase in dopamine in the brain, which causes that euphoric feeling that reduces inhibitions. If you’re normally shy, you may be the first one out on the dance floor. “When you exceed three drinks over a three-hour period, there’s simply more alcohol entering the bloodstream,” Hafeez says. “When imbibed, a calm, even-tempered person can become angry or pick fights.”
  2. You may act inappropriately. When the personality change drifts into the “bad behaviors” realm, you can really get yourself into trouble. You may start drunk-texting, making sexual advances toward a coworker or a friend’s spouse, entering into a physical altercation or drunk driving—behaviors you wouldn’t do sober. “Stick to two drinks over a three-hour period with a glass of water in between,” Hafeez advises. “You’ll remain much more in control.”
  3. Your speech slurs. A shift in speech patterns is one of the first signs that alcohol is impacting the central nervous system, impairing the information traveling from the brain to the mouth on a neurological level. “The more often a person binge drinks, the quicker the speech becomes slurred,” Hafeez reports. “Slurred speech is a symptom of the cumulative affect alcohol has on the brain.”
  4. You lose balance and have trouble walking. Alcohol also impacts the cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for motor functions and specifically balance and movement. “Doing several shots of alcohol quickly will impact balance fast!” Hafeez cautions. “You’re messing with your brain chemistry in a profound way when you binge drink.”
  5. Memory loss. You misplace your keys, leave your credit card at the bar or grab the wrong coat, so now someone else has your coat with your phone in the pocket. You may not have much memory of the entire evening. Hafeez says that is all due to shrinking brain mass. “When you mess with neurotransmitters, you’re messing with cognitive function that includes memory,” she explains. “Alcohol throws off brain chemistry in the hippocampus, a key spot in the brain helping to formulate memories. If you’re noticing blackouts about details of your time, that’s a sign you’re drinking too much or too quickly.”

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