Could Tougher Policies Reduce Binge Drinking?

December 28, 2013

While many people may think that drug rehabs primarily have individuals who are addicted to drugs such as cocaine and heroin, many people go to these facilities to overcome alcohol addiction as well. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the majority of treatment admissions are due to alcohol abuse. Research continues to show that states that have stricter laws regarding alcohol use may also have less car accident fatalities use drunk drivers. Now, a study has found that stronger state laws against alcohol use may have more benefits.

Researchers at the Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health and Boston Medical Center found that strong alcohol policies may help reduce binge drinking in certain areas. The scientists explained that binge drinking is responsible for an estimated half of all 80,000 alcohol-attributable deaths that occur each year.

“If alcohol policies were a newly discovered gene, pill or vaccine, we’d be investing billions of dollars to bring them to market,” said Tim Naimi, M.D., senior author of the study, and associate professor of medicine at BUSM and attending physician at BMC.

Tougher policies, less drinking
The researchers discovered that states that had the strongest policies associated with limiting alcohol abuse were one-fourth as likely to have binge drinking rates in the top 25 percent of states, compared to those with weaker policies.

“Unfortunately, most states have not taken advantage of these policies to help drinkers consume responsibly, and to protect innocent citizens from the devastating second-hand effects and economic costs from excessive drinking,” added Naimi. “The bottom line is that this study adds an important dimension to a large body of research demonstrating that alcohol policies matter – and matter a great deal – for reducing and preventing the fundamental building block of alcohol-related problems.”

The dangers of binge drinking
Binge drinking is a serious problem in the U.S. that can seriously damage people’s health, yet many individuals continue to do it. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every six adults in the U.S. binge drinks about four times each month. This is defined as when men drink an estimated five drinks over the course of two hours, and women consume four drinks in the same amount of time.

While young adults are more likely to engage in binge drinking than older individuals, research has shown that people over the age of 65 who binge drink do so more often than their younger counterparts.

Furthermore, many people may be under the impression that binge drinking is mostly done by college students. However, the CDC explained that 70 percent of binge drinking occurrences involve people aged 26 or older.

Along with potentially damaging their liver and other organs, people who binge drink are also costing the U.S. serious money. According to the CDC, binge drinking costs the U.S. more than $223 billion each year. This comes from people missing work due to their drinking, crimes committed while people are intoxicated and health care expenditures.

It is important for people to understand that even though alcohol is legal, that does not mean that it is safe to consume in large quantities. Individuals who are struggling because they have a dependence on alcohol should reach out to addiction treatment centers. There, they will find qualified professionals who have helped many people just like them overcome their issues and regain their lives. People who binge drink on a regular basis in particular should consider contacting one of these centers to get the help they need.

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