Binge Drinking, Part 1

In January, 2012, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an article about binge drinking which cites alarming statistics. Binge drinking is defined as consumption of more than 5 drinks for men and 4 for women, rapidly, over a short period of time. The median age group of most binge drinkers is 18-34 years. The group who most often binge drinks is those aged 65 and older. Most binge drinkers earn more than $75,000.00, while the group binge drinking most often and having most drinks per binge earns less than $25,000.00.

Health Care and Legal Considerations

Although most of these binge drinkers are not considered alcohol dependent or alcoholic, they are a costly factor in health care and the legal system. The study also revealed that most of those arrested for being alcohol-impaired drivers were binge drinkers. The cost per person, in 2006, for binge drinking was estimated at $746. This includes health care costs, stated loss of productivity, and expenses within the legal system. The report also estimated 62 cents per drink in federal, state and local government costs, while taxes on the alcohol brought in only 12 cents per drink. Those who binge drink and do so more often are most likely to get sick and die from alcohol-related illnesses.

The Results of Binge Drinking

Heavy drinking is known to contribute to more than 54 different types of injury and disease. Some of these are vehicle collisions, numerous forms of violence and sexually-transmitted disease. Estimated number of deaths each year in the US from excessive drinking is approximately 80,000. Other problems associated with binge drinking are motor vehicle collisions, violent behaviors against others, unplanned pregnancy, fetal alcohol spectrum disease, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and suicide.

Where Is Binge Drinking Most Common?

Nationwide, the highest population for binge drinking is located in the northern states of the Midwest, New England, District of Columbia, Alaska and Hawaii. Lowest numbers are across the South, California, Idaho and New Mexico.

The heaviest consumption of numbers of drinks for binge drinkers had a wide range, from six in District of Columbia to nine in Wisconsin. The highest numbers of drinks are seen in Midwest, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Other states that showing the number of drinks to be high are those where fewest binge drinking episodes are recorded, such as the Southern states of Louisiana and Mississippi. Lowest numbers are in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and several New England states.

What People Can Do

Possible solutions brought out in the report are numerous. Communities can implement awareness programs and build coalitions to further educate at the level of schools, churches, and community organizations. Others who impact popular opinion are within the medical community, those most often first to recognize symptoms in patients who binge drink. Those who experience firsthand negative impacts of binge drinking behaviors are police, fire personnel, and emergency responders, as well as judges, attorneys and court personnel. As they become educated on recognition of the relationship of drinking to crime, they can affect law making decisions as well as implement them. And people should realize that there are treatment centers and support groups available to help them. They do not have to be alone in their addiction struggles.

Increasing awareness will lead to increasingly effective methods for stopping behaviors that occur with binge drinking. As costs for the outcomes of binge drinking escalate, those searching for remedy will escalate as well.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions' counselor.

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