Binge drinking is affecting our adults 65 years and older more so than in our young adults, according to the January Vital Signs Issue published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). While binge drinking is most common in our young adults aged 18- 24, it is our older generation, up to 92%, who engages in binge drinking more frequently, up to five or six times a month, according to Issue. Pennsylvania (18.7%- 25.6%) is one of the highest binge drinking states. And in Pa. the average number of drinks consumed while binge drinking is 7.5.
Binge drinking is “Consuming four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men on an occasion, or when drinking brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above,” as defined by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Most people who binge drink are not considered dependent or even an alcoholic. But the implications for binge drinking are more than receiving a DUI. Binge drinking brings health and social disadvantages as well. Liver disease, an increased risk for certain cancers, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, sexual dysfunction and sexually transmitted diseases are among the health risks of binge drinking. Car accidents and other injuries as well as increased costs to the public regarding care for the effects of drinking are also among the detriments of binge drinking.
As a public health issue, binge drinking carries a cost to everyone:
- More than 80,000 deaths occur each year as a result of drinking too much, including binge drinking.
- “Drinking too much, including binge drinking, cost the United States $223.5 billion in 2006, or $1.90 a drink, from losses in productivity, health care, crime, and other expenses.” (communityguide.org)
Not only does binge drinking carry a cost to the individual, but the issue also lies in the example it sets for our younger generation. Our culture appears to be one that encourages social drinking. Drinking is part of our business deals at lunch, business deals at dinner, end of day relaxer, vacations, and formal and informal events. And bars and Wine and Spirit shops are aplenty.
According to the National Prevention Council, “Individuals’ decisions are influenced by how environments are designed and how choices are presented.” Behavior is mostly learned and how our choices are made depends on what we are exposed to, so we are all responsible for influencing choices.
There are several efforts underway that aim to address the binge drinking issue. Some efforts established by the National Prevention Strategy include regulating the amount of retail outlets that sell alcohol; increasing the alcohol tax; enforcement of laws aimed at driving under the influence and early screening for alcohol use and misuse.
Health care providers can provide patients with information and tools necessary to address a drinking issue; provide on-going drug and alcohol screening, especially to our young adult and older adult groups, and then make referrals to the appropriate facility or program when necessary.
Business and employers can ensure that drug and alcohol counseling is part of their health care plans; discourage drinking as routine part of business; teach responsible beverage service.
Community and Families can reduce marketing/advertisements that target alcohol drinkers; stop binge drinking and adopt more sensible drinking behavior; seek help from local Alcoholics Anonymous or get screened for alcohol misuse; support the minimum drinking age of 21.
While most binge drinkers do not qualify as alcohol abusers, some signs of alcohol abuse, according to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV), include the following:
- Repeated absences or poor work performance related to substance use; substance-related absences (hangover).
- Recurrent driving under the influence or operating machinery while under the influence.
- Recurrent alcohol related legal problems.
- Continued alcohol use despite persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the alcohol
Where to get help:
Free On-Line screening- provides on-line screening and options for treatment.
SEPIA- recovery support
Alcohol Anonymous- 817-515-1255-recovery support