The headline from the CDC reads, “Binge drinking is bigger problem than previously thought.”
What the headline doesn’t say is that Wisconsin continues to rank No. 1 in prevalence of binge drinking (25.6%) and intensity of binge drinking (9 drinks per occasion). The one area where we do not rank No. 1 is in frequency, that honor goes to Kentucky with 5.9 binge drinking episodes per month. Wisconsin’s frequency rate is 4.8 with the lowest being in New Jersey at 3.6 episodes.
Why should we care? Because excessive alcohol use is costing us billions of dollars in terms of deaths and years of potential life lost. Binge drinking is also a risk factor for numerous health and social problems; namely, motor vehicle crashes, violence, suicide, hypertension, acute myocardial infarction, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, fetal alcohol syndrome, and sudden infant death syndrome. From a pure traffic safety perspective, 85% of all alcohol-impaired driving episodes in 2010 were reported by persons who also reported binge drinking.
The strategies to reduce binge drinking are fairly basic and include the following:
- Limit alcohol outlet density;
- Hold alcohol retailers liable for harms related to the sale of alcohol to minors and intoxicated patrons;
- Maintain existing limits on the days and hours when alcohol is sold;
- Increase the price of alcohol; and
- Avoid further privatization of alcohol sales in states with government-operated or contracted liquor stores.
Now the question is whether the residents of Wisconsin care enough to start making changes.