Kings, Never Have I Ever, Beer Pong, Flip Cup…There’s certainly no shortage of drinking games to choose from. Playing games like these can be a good way to bond with friends, but if you don’t play them safely, your health could lose—big time.
While you’ll be hard up to find a doctor who will endorse any game that revolves around drinking alcohol in excess, there are ways to minimize the damage that playing them can have on your body (and the hangover you’ll have the next morning). If you are going to play drinking games, here’s how to do it safely, according to doctors.
How Alcohol Impacts the Body
Science is clear that alcohol isn’t good for our health—period. But drinking in excess is even worse. Excessive alcohol is defined as having four or more drinks in one day or eight or more drinks a week for women and five or more drinks in one day or 15 or more drinks a week for men.
When playing drinking games, you can reach four or five drinks pretty easily without even realizing it. Dr. Jared Braunstein, DO, a board-certified internist with Medical Offices in Manhattan and contributor to LabFinder, says that this can have several different negative impacts on one’s short-term health. He says that this can include dehydration, motor coordination impairment, confusion and a reduced ability to make decisions. “Other reasons why binge drinking is bad for health are nausea, vomiting, loss of self-control, memory loss, and even blackout or coma in severe cases,” he adds. Pretty sobering, right?
“From a medical point of view, binge drinking can put a strain on various systems of our bodies. We can get sudden increases in blood pressure and heart rate, nausea and vomiting—which, apart from being miserable, can throw off our electrolytes and cause dehydration. If you drink enough, you can cause alcohol poisoning and end up in the hospital,” adds Dr. Frank Contacessa, MD, an internal medicine doctor in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
While Dr. Contacessa says that one night of binge drinking likely isn’t going to negatively impact your health long-term, if it’s something you do regularly, it certainly can. Binge drinking regularly can increase the risk of certain types of cancers, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and pancreatitis.
If You’re Going To Play Drinking Games, Here’s How To Do It Safely, According to Doctors
It bears repeating that no credible doctor is going to recommend any activity that encourages binge drinking—and Dr. Braunstein and Dr. Contacessa are no exception. However, if you are going to play a drinking game, they say that there are three ways to make it safer:
- Stick with drinking one alcoholic drink per hour
- Eat before you play
- Drink plenty of water
Dr. Contacessa explains that the average person metabolizes about one drink per hour. “When we exceed that amount, the liver can’t keep up and the effects become cumulative. Binge drinking will have a large intake of alcohol over a short period of time, which is a surefire way to overwhelm the system and cause problems,” he says. This is why not drinking more than one alcoholic drink an hour can protect your liver (and in turn, your whole body).
How can eating and drinking water help? Dr. Contacessa says that drinking on an empty stomach causes alcohol to be absorbed into the bloodstream faster. “The intoxicating effects are more immediate, but the liver takes just as long to metabolize that alcohol. If you eat first, the absorption is slower, which allows the liver a bit more time to keep up,” he says.
As for drinking water, Dr. Braunstein says that this helps minimize the dehydrating effects alcohol has on the brain and body. He recommends drinking water between rounds of the game. In other words, drink water while you play the game, not just before and after you play it—although that is important too.
Again, no game that involves binge drinking is going to be good for the body in any way, shape or form. But if you do want to play a drinking game, keeping your alcohol consumption to one drink per hour, eating beforehand, and drinking plenty of water while you play can help minimize the damage. Those three doctor-approved tips are one game plan to play by!
- Dr. Jared Braunstein, DO, board-certified internist with Medical Offices in Manhattan and contributor to LabFinder
- Dr. Frank Contacessa, MD, internal medicine doctor in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida