One out of every five adults in Vermont drinks too much. Vermont is a little above the national average when it comes to how many of its citizen binge drink, but not by much. Binge drinking, having four or more consecutive drinks for a woman and five or more for a man, is a nationwide problem. That means that if something works to help this problem in Vermont, it may be worth trying in other states as well.
New Assessment Tool
One of the things Vermont is doing to address the problem of binge drinking in the state is to post a San Diego State University-designed web tool aimed at helping people take a clear look at how much they drink and what happens when they do. The online tool for assessing drinking habits was modified slightly for use in Vermont, where it is helping both youth and adults come to grips with some of the realities surrounding their drinking choices. Those behind the web tool in Vermont hope that it will be used to curb the growing problem of binge drinking all over the country.
The Image Factor
Part of the reason that binge drinking is on the rise has to do with the public image attached to heavy drinking. There is very little stigma connected to downing drink after drink. In fact, many movies, magazine ads and Internet or television commercials portray drinking as the equivalent of having a good time. People attracted to images of youth, beauty and fun are buying into the message behind the visuals – drinking makes you feel young, fun and cool.
What people rarely see or hear are the dangers of binge drinking, or its costs. The online assessment not only shows people that they are often drinking more than they think they are, it also shows them how much money that habit is costing them. It’s a hefty price tag in most cases.
How Binging Costs
But there are other costs besides the financial ones. After just one or two drinks a person’s judgment becomes unreliable. They are less aware of how much they are drinking and are often willing to try stronger drinks as the evening progresses. At this point the last thing on their mind is how hard their brain, heart and liver must work to keep up.
Yet the physical risks of binge drinking are only too real. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 80,000 alcohol-related deaths occur every year in America. That is a staggering figure and yet it is only a fraction of the health hazards linked to binge drinking. Drinking too much alcohol is also associated with injuries from car crashes, falling down or being burned, sexual rape and assault, STDs and alcohol poisoning. Over-drinking raises the likelihood of liver problems, cancer and addiction.
In Vermont, the percentage of youth binging on alcohol is the same as adults (one in five). And 25 percent of college students there say they’ve suffered problems at school related to their unwise drinking. These figures are fairly representative of the country at large.
Not Everyone Is Doing It
Males between the ages of 18 and 34 tend to be the most active binge drinkers in any state, but that fact alone is misleading. Not all young men – even young men in college – drink. At least 30 percent of young people (ages 18 to 25) don’t drink. And in Vermont, 58 percent of college students say that alcohol is not needed at parties.