By Rebecca Bishop

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, so we wanted to tell you about a report released earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control about binge drinking in the United States. Binge drinking is thethird leading cause of preventable death in the US, so this report raises awareness about serious immediate and long-term health consequences.

Binge drinking” occurs when men consume five or more drinks in a short time period (about 2 hours), and when women consume four or more drinks in that period. This is the general number of drinks that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or above.

Binge drinking accounts for more than 50 percent of the alcohol consumed by adults and 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by youth.  Most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent. The number of people who binge drink has remained consistent over the last 10 years, however the number of times people binge drink has increased. While binge drinking is highest in the 18-24 age group, the report actually shows that adults are just as likely to binge drink as younger people. In addition, higher household income generally means higher intensity of drinking. These findings are particularly troubling since research shows youth model their drinking behaviors after adults.

While this is a nationwide problem, it is best to address local challenges with local solutions. Here in Boston 25 percent of adults report binge drinking, mostly between the ages of 18 and 44.

According to the latest emergency department data available, alcohol emergency department visits rates have steadily increased over the last 5 years.

Fortunately, there in Boston there are resources and solutions that exist in each neighborhood and community to address theses increasing numbers. The best place to start for change and/or improvement is with yourself: Choose not to binge drink yourself and when given the opportunity, encourage others not to either. If you are of legal age and you want to drink, do so in moderation. The US Dietary Guidelines on alcohol consumption recommend no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men. Pregnant women and youth under 21 should not drink alcohol.

Additionally, Boston residents can develop or participate in community coalitions and groups that build partnerships among schools, community and faith based organizations, law enforcement, health care and public health agencies to reduce binge drinking, for example supporting the minimum legal drinking age of 21, supporting local control of the marketing and sale of alcohol, particularly when youth are targeted, or supporting active effective community strategies to prevent binge drinking.

Local resources

Boston No Drugs Coalitions are currently involved in prevention activities associated with drug and alcohol use. Here are some local resources for more information:

Allston Brighton Substance Abuse Taskforce
Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition
Chinatown Boston Asian YES
Dorchester Substance Abuse Coalition
East Boston Neighborhood Against Substance Abuse
North End Against Drugs
Roxbury/Jamaica Plain Substance Abuse Coalition
South Boston Hope & Recovery
South Boston CAN
South End Healthy Boston Coalition

More information

CDC report: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/VitalSigns/BingeDrinking/

CDC Binge drinking facts:  http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm

Substance Abuse in Boston 2011: http://www.bphc.org/about/research/Pages/Home.aspx#reports

Rebecca Bishop is a prevention manager in our Bureau of Addictions Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Support Services.

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