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St. Patty’s Day: Calling The Shots With Alcohol

ShamrockSaint Patrick’s Day is coming up on Wednesday, March 17th.  The 1,500-year-old holiday commemorates the death of the patron Saint of Ireland.  While the day is commonly viewed as an opportunity to honor Irish heritage, tradition, and culture, it has simultaneously become—for many—an excuse to drink to excess. Like many holidays, St. Patrick’s Day has become highly commercialized, and partaking in libations is certainly one of the most widespread societal expectations around the Holiday, whether you have Irish heritage or not.  Given the pervasiveness of bar crawls and other alcohol-centered social gatherings, it is easy to believe that just about everybody is drinking on St. Patrick’s Day. 

Binge drinking is defined by the Center for Disease Control as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings an individual’s blood alcohol concentration to or above .08g/dL.  Even one instance of going over .08g/dL is considered binge drinking.  This is the point at which one cannot safely operate a motor vehicle as determined by the law.  Binge drinking, even in isolated instances, is among the more dangerous habits a person can partake in.  Outside of the physical damage it causes to our bodies, binge drinking leads to impaired judgement, and is responsible for thousands of vehicular accidents, physical batteries, sexual assaults, and slews of other violent actions. 


But just how common is binge drinking as a behavior?  You might be surprised to learn that only one in six adults engages in binge drinking at a frequency of four times or more per month.  Presentations in media often lead us to believe that the habit is much more common.  Granted, this number is skewed when you factor in age; younger adults tend to binge drink at higher rates than older adults.  Even so, there are plenty of people who choose not to binge drink in all age groups. 


Perhaps you are one of these people who seldom binge drinks.  Perhaps you do so occasionally.  Perhaps you do so regularly.  The fact of the matter is, binge drinking, even in isolated instances, is never a safe behavior.  Binge drinking once could be all it takes to lead to a catastrophic failure of judgement, altering your life permanently.  Now, not all people who binge drink have alcoholism, but they are, at least in the moment, abusing alcohol. 


Am I advocating that we do not drink at all?  Absolutely not!  Alcohol in moderation is perfectly reasonable.  Used appropriately, alcohol is 100% compatible with a healthy lifestyle; but the behavior of binge drinking is 100% not.  If you find that you are binge drinking frequently, please consider telling somebody, and researching steps on how to improve your relationship with alcohol.  It is not easy, and requires a lot of courage, but it is one of the best decisions you will ever make. 


Now, for those of you who tend to binge drink infrequently, usually on special occasions, ask yourself why.  For many of us it has to do with peer pressure.  We have created a society that associates binge drinking with youthfulness and adventure, wherein being able to “handle” large amounts of alcohol is an admirable thing.  With any level of scrutiny this view of alcohol fails to hold up.  As a neural-system depressant, alcohol dulls rather than sharpens us.  But it is easy to tell ourselves otherwise when a large deal of office gossip revolves around what happened at bars over the weekend. 


My advice?  Stop placing drunken stories on pedestals.  It’s not easy, especially when everyone around you still elevates tales of drunken misadventures.  Most of us partake in alcohol to have fun, but frequently we feel pressured into drinking past the point of having fun.  Know your body.  How many drinks does it take to get you to the point of relaxing and enjoying yourself?  Find that number, don’t go past it, and hold yourself accountable; you will thank yourself later.  Too many of us are not calling the shots in our relationships with alcohol.  Remember, we are in control, until we are not.  But when we lose control, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.  Stay safe, and have a happy, responsible Saint Patrick’s Day. 

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