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Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Binge Drinking is Dangerous

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In terms of drug abuse, both indoors and outdoors, alcohol leads the list. It is the most easily obtained drug, legal, socially acceptable, and marketed heavily to the same demographic most likely to show poor judgment in its use—namely, teenagers. Much of the marketing portrays alcohol, particularly beer, being consumed in an outdoor recreational setting. As anyone who attends a professional baseball game will attest, the marketing is effective—actually, too effective. I appreciate the fact that alcohol commercials now sometimes contain a brief mention about drinking responsibly, but that hasn’t affected the alarming trend that one in six adults in the United States is a binge drinker. 

What does the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have to say about binge drinking? We learn that:

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume five or more drinks, and when women consume four or more drinks, in about two hours.

Most people who binge drink are not alcoholics. However, they drink excessively. More men than women are binge drinkers. Pay attention to this fact: Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than are non-binge drinkers.

According to national surveys:

  • About 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.
  • About 75 percent of the alcohol consumed by adults in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.
  • The proportion of current drinkers that binge is highest in the 18- to 20-year-old group (51 percent).

From the outdoor health perspective, we should be concerned that binge drinking is associated with unintentional injuries, including falls, burns, and drowning. Too much alcohol also wrecks havoc on ones health, having an adverse effect upon hypertension, strokes, heart disease, mental deterioration, and liver disease. 

I’ve lost count of the number of sad events that I’ve witnessed where persons were injured unnecessarily because they or other people were intoxicated.  I wish there was an easy solution, but there is not. Every outdoor education program teaches of the hazards associated with drinking alcohol, but the extent to which such admonitions are effective is not known. At the very least, we should recognize persons with chronic drinking problems, and help them seek assistance to conquer their addiction.

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Tags: General Interest , Staying Safe

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.

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