Binge drinking among women is on the rise nationwide according to a study published by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington earlier this month.
According to data, binge drinking among women rose 17.5 percent between 2005 and 2012 while men only increased the prevalence of binging on alcohol by 4.9 percent. For this study, binge drinking was defined as four or more drinks on one occasion in a single month for women and five for men.
The increase falls in line with heavy drinking trends that appear to be up 17.2 percent nationwide. Heavy drinking is defined as more than one drink per day during a one month span for women and two for men.
But the numbers seem to suggest an increase in drinking among those who already consumed alcohol, not that more people started drinking. The average number of Americans who consumed any alcohol at all, but who were not necessarily heavy or binge drinkers remained stagnant at 56 percent in both 2005 and 2012.
Considering the long-term negative health implications associated with heavy drinking, this trend is alarming to many medical professionals. The study notes heavy and binge drinkers are at higher risk for serious bodily harm resulting from injuries, alcohol poisoning and acute organ damage and is a risk factor for cirrhosis of the liver and cardiovascular disease.
A post in The Guardian suggests this data should be used as a reason for people, especially women, to “swap the bourbon for a bong.” It’s not too shabby a suggestion considering the latest comparisons between marijuana and alcohol.
Supporters of recreational cannabis point to lower incidences of violence associated with being high verses being drunk. How many people have gotten into physical altercations when stoned? Probably not very many unless you’re bogarting the Funyons.
Meanwhile, alcohol is a factor in 40 percent of all violent crimes according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Compare that with the fact that traffic fatalities have gone down since Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use.
But, the Guardian author’s fallacy may lie in the same data she’s citing. The study broke down alcohol data from 2005-2012 by county nationwide and compiled a handy map color-coding the results.
Counties with the highest alcohol consumption are shown in varying shades of red. If Colorado is to be the example, it seems folks there are not necessarily putting down their pints in favor of a joint. A good chunk of the state is shown in deep red while the rest of it, all but two counties, are shown in orange, indicating high levels of alcohol use. The two counties shown in blue are only just slightly out of orange range, shown in light blue. Dark blue indicates low levels of alcohol use.
Washington State also has legal recreational pot and that state also shoes high levels of alcohol use.
Meanwhile in Florida, coastal counties appear to have higher drinking rates than those more inland. Monroe County has the highest use with more than 65 percent of residents in the Keys drinking any alcohol at all.
Pinellas drinks more than Hillsborough 57.9 percent to 50.8 percent.
Northern states appear to imbibe more than those further south. East Kentucky and West Virginia are almost solidly dark blue. But, those individuals are probably consuming illegal moonshine, not craft beer or complex cocktails.
Other standouts on the map include the sole deep red county in Texas under the binge drinking category. While Texas looks to be a fairly good at drinking responsibly, Loving County bordering New Mexico has a nearly 30 percent binge drinking rate in 2012. Esmeralda County is the only county in Nevada to be the darkest red with a 27.5 percent incidence of binge drinking.
It’s worth noting both of those counties have a “middle of nowhere” feel. Esmeralda County is nearly half-way between Las Vegas and Reno and is the least populated county in Nevada with a population of less than 1,000. Loving County, Texas is the least populous city in the entire U.S. with a population of less than 100.
What else are you supposed to do besides get hammered all day?
The rest of Nevada and neighboring Arizona seem less likely to binge drink or drink heavily. That could perhaps be because they’ve gone all Breaking Bad and swapped to meth.