From Our Team
Before the holidays, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released some new statistics and information about excessive drinking. It may be assumed that excessive alcohol use is associated with alcohol dependence and that most of the societal and health problems associated with alcohol use are from those who are alcohol dependent, or alcoholics. However, nine of ten people who report excessive use of alcohol do not meet the criteria for alcohol dependence. This means most of the societal problems associated with alcohol are caused by people who sometimes drink too much not by people with alcoholism.
Binge drinking is one kind of excessive drinking behavior. Binge drinking means having five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women in two hours or less. This amount of alcohol generally raises an individual’s blood alcohol content to above the legal limit. According to the (CDC), more than 50% of the alcohol consumed in the U.S. is in the form of binge drinking. Binge drinking is most common among young people between 18 and 34 years old. In fact, 90% of the alcohol consumed by youth under 21 is in the form of binge drinking. In Texas, 21% of high school students admit they binge drank in the past month.
Binge drinking in all ages is associated with a number of negative consequences, such as car crashes and other unintentional injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence, sexually transmitted diseases, and alcohol poisoning. According to the CDC, people who binge drink are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than people who don’t binge drink.
There are also a number of health consequences associated with consistent long-term binge drinking such as high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, liver disease, certain cancers, and poor control of diabetes. Excessive alcohol use causes over 88,000 deaths every year in the United States. Clearly, binge drinking is dangerous.
A number of community-based strategies have been identified to reduce binge drinking and related harms, such as increasing taxes on alcohol, limiting the number of alcohol retail outlets in a given area, consistent enforcement of laws against underage drinking, and screening and counseling for alcohol misuse. Parents of teens can also help through modeling healthy behaviors. The CDC recommends the following:
• Choose not to drink too much yourself. If you choose to drink alcohol, follow the U.S. Dietary Guidelines on moderate alcohol use (no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men). • Don’t serve alcohol to children or teens and don’t serve people who have already had too much to drink. • If you’re worried about your own drinking, talk to your healthcare provider (or call 2-1-1 for local counseling, treatment, or 12-step resources). • Support community efforts to reduce underage and binge drinking.
Finally, it is not too early to begin talking to your younger children about alcohol. Experts recommend starting to talk with children about drinking around the age of nine. For some great interactive resources that will help you start the conversation in age-appropriate ways, check out “Talk. They Hear You” at http://www.samhsa.gov/underage-drinking/start-the-talk.
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