March brings more opportunity to binge drink
March ushers in the spring season, a reason to celebrate after such a long winter. It also happens to bring with it seasonal celebrations such as March Madness, St. Patrick’s Day, spring break and Tigers opening day. And one common element that ties all those occasions together is usually alcohol, more specifically, binge drinking. It is estimated that more than 50 percent of Americans will heavily consume alcohol in this timeframe, with St. Patrick’s Day probably the most alcohol-focused holiday this season. For many people, these are annual celebratory occasions where alcohol is involved. But for those with dependency issues, it is so much more.
According to a report in 24/7 Wall St., the Midwest accounts for some of the highest concentrated excessive drinking — with Michigan coming in at number 10. Excessive alcohol consumption according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes binge drinking and heavy drinking. Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks in a single occasion for women and five or more for men, and heavy drinking is defined as at least eight drinks per week for women and 15 for men. Nationwide, 18 percent of American adults drink an excessive amount of alcohol.
When it comes to drinking, it’s imperative to understand when casual enjoyment might lead to a more serious problem. As well as understand that binge drinking is related to but not the same as alcohol abuse or alcoholism. The difference is alcohol abuse results in problems at home, work, relationships or the law. While on the other end of the spectrum is alcoholism where the individual has a physical dependency, cravings and cannot control the amount of alcohol consumed in spite of negative consequences. The bottom line is, binge drinking increases the risk of alcohol dependency.
Here are a few things to ask and be aware of to know when help is needed
- Pay attention to how often you or your friends go out. Do you find yourselves always choosing to drink as your activity?
- When you do go out to drink, how much are you drinking? How much are your friends drinking? It can be possible to control your consumption before it becomes a problem, but this can be difficult for some. Have your designated driver pay attention to you so they can help you gauge your consumption.
- Keep track of your mental health and emotions. This can help you make connections between your mental state and picking up a drink to cope. Pay attention as well to those around you if you notice a pattern of using alcohol to cope themselves.
Binge drinking alone is a serious danger to you and to others as it can illicit potential injury due to drunkenness, and can also cause serious internal damage, such as liver disease, brain damage, heart disease, and more if done for an extended period of time.
Keep in mind that binge drinking can be an easy gateway into alcohol dependency. Know the signs and signals indicating excessive drinking. Always ensure there is a designated driver, be ready to have your home open as a place to stay for those who need it, and be willing to help someone get the care they need if dependency has taken control of their life.
Susan Kozak has been a licensed social worker for the past 31 years and currently serves as the executive director of Community Care Services, a position she has held since 2011.