St. Patrick’s Day: Binge Drinking Is One Tradition Best Left in the Past
St. Patrick’s Day brings to mind leprechauns, clover, pots of gold, and Irish heritage. It’s also a day besieged by binge drinking.
It is, in fact, the fourth tipsiest drinking holiday, in line behind New Year’s Eve, Christmas, and the Fourth of July.
While it may be festive to celebrate and toast the luck o’ the Irish, binge drinking and heavy drinking carry some not-so-fun risks.
Drinking Levels Defined
Binge drinking is defined as consumption that elevates a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08, or what is considered legally intoxicated.
Typically it’s when men have five or more drinks within about a two-hour span. For women, it’s four drinks in the same amount of time. It’s estimated that one out of every six U.S. adults binges around four times a month. It’s a more common practice among men and college students.
Heavy alcohol use is defined as a male drinking four or more drinks on any given day; for women, it’s three or more drinks.
A culture that promotes or encourages drinking or has low alcohol taxes are two factors behind alcohol excesses. A city like Denver, with both (actually, the entire state of Colorado has low tax rates on alcohol), has reported 27% of its adults binge-drink.
Areas with a large college student population also tend to have more heavy or binge drinking episodes. Fort Collins, home to Colorado State University, for example, is the state’s so-called “drunkest city.” More than 10% of the population is enrolled in college or grad school, and more than one in five binges or drinks to excess.
Dangers of Excess Drinking
For some, binge drinking may be as normal as green beer on St. Patrick’s Day, but it carries risks. It can lead to a number of immediate and long-term problems. Short-term, it can put a person in danger of:
- Injuries from car crashes, burns, falls, or alcohol poisoning
- Violence stemming from sexual assault, domestic abuse, or homicide
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Unplanned pregnancies
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, or a risk of miscarriage or stillborn babies
Over a prolonged period, excess drinking can lead to:
- Various cancers of the mouth, throat, liver, colon, and breast
- Chronic diseases of the heart, liver, and kidneys
- Reduced immune function
- Memory and learning problems
- Fertility troubles
- Vitamin deficiencies
Drinking to excess can also lead to alcohol use disorders, more commonly referred to as alcoholism. That’s when a person becomes dependent on drinking, frequently experiencing withdrawal when they stop. Their drinking also tends to continue despite the negative consequences it levels on their life.
A Toast to Moderation
Drinking is a part of many cultures and done so in moderation it’s generally not a problem. If it gets out of hand, however, there are many risks, both short- and long-term.
For the person in recovery, alternative ways to celebrate may be a wiser option.
Having a plan or a strong support network are solid ideas. Sober St. Patrick’s Day events are being held around the globe, too, putting the focus on pride over knocking back pints. A movie night, game night, or a potluck are a few other ways to celebrate soberly.
cadca.org – The Luck of the Irish: The Drinking Culture on St. Patrick’s Day
cdc.gov – Binge Drinking
niaaa.nih.gov – Drinking Levels Defined
thedenverchannel.com – ‘Denver has a drinking problem,’ health department warns after new binge drinking data
usatoday.com – Alcohol abuse: The drunkest city in every state
healthline.com – What Happens to Your Body When You Binge Drink
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Staying Sober on St. Patrick’s Day
soberstpatricksday.org – Sober St. Patrick’s Day