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Posted on August 1, 2022 at 9:25 AM by Bridget Craker
It’s no secret that alcohol consumption is ingrained in Wisconsin’s culture. In some instances, this is even portrayed as a source of pride; something that Wisconsin does better than other states. What really sets Wisconsin apart from other states is the overconsumption of alcohol, often referred to as binge drinking.
Binge drinking is defined as consuming 5 or more drinks on an occasion for men or 4 or more drinks on an occasion for women. Binge drinking is different from an alcohol use disorder, in which an individual is dependent on alcohol, but binge drinking still has negative impacts on people’s health.
According to the CDC, about 25% of Wisconsin adults binge drink, this is the highest percentage in the United States. In Green County, 28% of adults engage in binge drinking according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS). Binge drinking can lead to health problems during or soon after drinking such as alcohol poisoning, car crashes, falls, burns, etc., or violence. Binge drinking can also contribute to chronic health issues like cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease. Additionally, the costs associated with the effects of binge drinking in the United States are around 190 billion dollars. According to the CDC, these costs come from lost work productivity, health care expenditures, criminal justice costs, and other expenses.
Choosing to drink less alcohol is a great way for people to protect their health and save money. In a culture centered around alcohol, this can be difficult, but we have some practical tips from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to help people cut back on drinking alcohol.
Setting a budget of how much money you will spend on alcohol in a month, or on a given night can help you limit the amount of alcohol you purchase, and thus how much you drink. If you generally drink beverages with a higher percentage of alcohol (such as spirits) you could consider switching to drinks with a lower alcohol percentage. This could include lighter beers, white wines, which generally have lower alcohol levels than red wines, or you could even try non-alcoholic (NA) beers or wines, or try a mocktail! Rather than centering social activities around drinking try new or different activities with friends and family – grab a coffee, go for a hike, or try an art class together. If you find yourself drinking when you’re bored or stressed, try working on finding an alternative activity to cope with stress. Whether that be exercising, a new hobby or craft, or going for a walk. Drinking alcohol when you’re stressed can be a slippery slope that can lead to excessive drinking.
If you or someone that you know is having an issue with drinking alcohol, there are resources available to help. The Green County Human Services Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse has services available to community members, visit their website to learn more: https://wi-greencounty.civicplus.com/. The United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357) is available to call 24/7 for treatment referral and information. If you want to assess your current drinking habits, check out this tool from the CDC which will check your current drinking patterns and provide you with recommendations: https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/CheckYourDrinking/index.html
Adults in Wisconsin can raise young people to drink responsibly. Having “small talks” with your kids about alcohol will help them understand why adults drink alcohol, how to drink responsibly, and that drinking isn’t needed to have a good time. Underage drinking rates across the country have been declining, but in Wisconsin, we’ve seen a much smaller decrease in underage drinking rates. In Wisconsin, 59% of teens have tried alcohol, and two out of three teens don’t see underage drinking as a risk according to Wisconsin DHS. In, Green County specifically, 15 % of high school students have binge drank in the past 30 days. How do you have small talks? Start talking with your kids around age 8. Throughout their adolescence have several small discussions. You can have a small talk anytime, anywhere - watching a movie, driving in the car, or at the grocery store. There’s no big production needed to have a small talk. Just choose the alcohol-free moment that feels right to you. Ask questions like “Why do you think it's illegal for kids under the age of 21 to drink alcohol?” or “Have you ever seen an adult drink too much? What did you think or feel?” For more information about how to have small talks, and to find answers to kids’ questions about alcohol visit the Small Talks website: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/small-talks/start-talking.htm