St. Patrick’s Day Drinking Can Lead to Binge, Blackout

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Every year, St. Patrick’s Day brings festive celebrations filled with shades of green, shamrocks, leprechauns, and drinking–lots of drinking.

Many revelers throw one (or more) back to honor the patron saint of Ireland on March 17, a day that is now the fourth-largest drinking holiday in the US after New Year’s, Christmas, and the Fourth of July.

In 2017, 56.1 percent of Americans are expected to celebrate the holiday, and 13 million pints of Guinness are expected to be consumed worldwide annually during the St. Patrick’s Day drinking festivities. With all the rounds of green beer, Irish whiskey, and other alcoholic beverages being served, some people likely will drink too much, a reality that reveals the holiday’s dark side.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show 252 people died in drunk-driving crashes in the US during the St. Patrick’s Day holiday period from 2011 through 2015. Alcohol-related St. Patrick’s Day car crashes happen every 72 minutes on St. Patrick’s Day, and 75 percent of them involve a driver who has consumed two times the legal limit, according to data compiled by personal finance siteWalletHub.

College students and St. Patrick’s Day drinking

Some college students will no doubt be among festival-goers this year as holidays like St. Patrick’s Day are synonymous with binge drinking, the pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood-alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams percent or above the legal limit, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

St. Patrick's Day beer drinkingFor adult men, consuming five or more drinks in about two hours is considered a “binge,” while it’s four drinks or more for adult women.

Data show binge drinking is already an issue on college campuses across the US. According to a 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 60 percent of college students ages 18 to 22 drank alcohol in the past month, and almost 2 out of 3 of them engaged in binge drinking during the same timeframe.

Problems tied to excessive drinking affect not just the drinker, but their families and their communities. College students who overindulge in drinking alcohol to the point of dependence or addiction may experience:

  • Academic performance problems
  • Health challenges
  • Social problems, such as getting into conflicts with others in social settings
  • Risky or unsafe sexual activity
  • Unintentional injuries
  • Suicide attempts

One major risk of binge-drinking is alcohol poisoning. If you or someone you know has these symptoms after drinking alcohol, dial 911 and seek help immediately.

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Confusion
  • Irregular or slowed breathing
  • Hypothermia and blush or pale skin
  • Vomiting

What counts as a ‘standard’ drink?

The NIAAA advises everyone who drinks alcoholic beverages to track the number of drinks they consume in a given period. It also offers the following guidelines on what counts as a drink.

woman drinking aloneIt says, “In the United States, a standard drink is one that contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:

12 ounces of beer with 5 percent alcohol content
5 ounces of wine with 12 percent alcohol content
1.5 ounces of distilled spirits with 40 percent alcohol content.”

NIAAA cautions, however, that while the “standard” drink amounts listed above are helpful for following health guidelines, they may not reflect the actual serving sizes that are poured in bars and restaurants.

“A large cup of beer, an overpoured glass of wine, or a single mixed drink could contain much more alcohol than a standard drink,” the NIAAA says on its website. “In addition, while the alcohol concentrations listed are ‘typical,’ there is considerable variability in alcohol content within each type of beverage (e.g. beer, wine, distilled spirits.)”

Staying safe on the roads

St. Patrick’s Day drinking participants who do drink too much could run into legal trouble on the roads if not careful. Law enforcement agencies throughout the nation are taking precautionary measures to help ensure that the St. Patrick’s Day holiday is a safe one.

In Colorado, 88 law enforcement agencies across the state will be on the lookout for impaired drivers.

“People need to realize that even one drink can impair your ability to drive,” Colorado State Patrol Chief Col. Scott Hernandez said in a statement published The Denver Post. “Troopers are on the lookout for impaired drivers every day, all day, all night, across the entire state. The consequences of driving impaired are not worth the risk.”

In Los Angeles, patrols will be out in higher numbers to conduct DUI checkpoints to catch revelers who are over the legal limit.

Authorities recommend that partiers’ St. Patrick’s Day drinking plans include either make a commitment to either staying sober so they can drive safely or schedule a ride to their destination if there’s a chance that they have had too much to drink.

“Planning a sober ride home before the party begins is the first step in staying safe on St. Patrick’s Day,” Los Angeles County police officials said in a statement. Revelers who have had too much to drink can download a smartphone application and schedule an on-demand ride service that may even offer discounts on rides for the holidays.

Do you or someone you know have a drinking problem?

palm beach instituteIf you, or someone you know, have a parent, spouse, or other family member or friend who is battling with alcoholism or substance abuse, call (855) 534-3574 now to speak with one of our Palm Beach Institute specialists.

They can help you find a treatment program tailored to your specific needs today. They are standing by around the clock, waiting for your call.

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