August 24, 2017
Binge-drinking was on my mind today. Maybe this is a problem that always existed; maybe it is getting worse. It’s the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., killing about 80,000 Americans annually. More than 38 million Americans binge drink an average of four times a month. The total cost to the U.S. economy is $223.5 billion annually. All of this is according to a CDC report. This is just staggering when you think about it.
According to the same report, “Most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent or alcoholics.” Definitions of binge drinking differ. This study quantified it as more than four drinks in a short period of time for women or more than five for men. Other studies define it as consuming an amount of alcohol sufficient to raise blood alcohol level to .08 or higher.
My tendency to binge when I drink was a key reason why I became uncomfortable with my drinking patterns. So why do people binge? For me, it helped me realize a sense of camaraderie with friends who were also drinking heavily, and I liked the feeling of being relaxed and even losing a little control. I liked the feeling of being drunk. This was always a short-term feeling. No one likes the long term effects of over-drinking, especially not the hangovers the next day. It was one too many of these that prompted me to start this challenge.
What got me thinking about the topic was advertisements for “Thrive+” that keep appearing in my Facebook feed. It’s a product that claims to “mitigate the negative effects of alcohol.” It’s basically a supplement you take when you drink heavily that prevents hangovers. The comments in the advertised Facebook post included testimonials from people who wrote of drinking all day in Cabo, taking the product, and being in a perfect condition to continue partying the next day without the inconvenience of being hungover.
I found such enthusiastic promotion of this product disturbing, chiefly because the product seemed to exist to ease the effects and even justify binge drinking. While it may help with hangovers, there is no mechanism by which it could actually reduce the 80,000 American annual deaths; it might even serve to increase them if people turn out to binge drink more if there was a product that would prevent hangovers.
Reading the CDC report was an eye opener. Yet binge drinking seems to be becoming more and more socially acceptable. Suffering the effects of a hangover may be miserable but they also can be an indicator when we have gone too far with our drinking. Taking a product to alleviate the after-effects can mask a bigger problem. If it were not for my hangovers, I may have never recognized that I was drinking too much too often.
Still going strong in the challenge. Today is Day 9. Thank you for reading.