St. Patrick’s Day and Binge Drinking a Deadly Combination
With more Americans claiming Irish ancestry than there are people in the Republic of Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a widely celebrated holiday in the U.S. that is synonymous with excessive drinking. While many will be tempted to binge drink—defined as consuming five or more drinks in two hours for men and four or more for women—on the holiday, the sobering statistics on both St. Patrick’s Day-related dangers and binge drinking in general may be enough to make you reconsider the decision.
St. Patrick’s Day, Binge Drinking and Mayhem
Most Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in some form, with around 40 percent going to a bar or party, over 20 percent attending a parade and 30 percent celebrating with family. More than half of all revelers will drink beer on St. Patrick’s Day, with almost 20 percent opting for hard liquor and 9 percent planning on consuming a combination of the two. While much of the partying happens among college students, they’re far from the only ones who go too far each year with the green-tinted alcohol and daylong drinking.
As vice.com reports, the University of Massachusetts’ “Blarney Blowout” attracted 4,000 partiers last year, resulting in 73 arrests and “violence and fights, injuries, severe alcohol intoxications, sexual assaults, excessive noise, property damage and violence toward the police and community members.”
In Hoboken, New Jersey—and many other places around the country—the chaos isn’t centered on colleges. The parade in 2011 was marked by 34 arrests and 136 people being taken away in ambulances, not to mention knifepoint robberies of people in a nearby apartment complex and thefts of vodka from bars.
There are a multitude of consequences associated with binge drinking, including alcohol poisoning, intentional and unintentional injuries, sexually transmitted diseases, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and neurological damage. Even occasional binge drinking damages the brain, and this is especially true for young people, whose brains are still developing. Although college students commonly binge drink, 70 percent of binge drinking episodes involve adults 26 and older
Binge drinking is also associated with excessive drinking in general, with more than nine in 10 adults who drink excessively reporting bingeing in the past month. Around half of all the alcohol consumed in the U.S. is consumed as part of a binge.
Drunk Driving and St. Patrick’s Day
Drunk driving—defined as driving with a blood-alcohol content of over 0.08 percent—is especially common in binge drinkers, who are 14 times more likely to drive drunk than non-bingers. Given St. Patrick’s Day’s role as an unofficial binge-drinking holiday, it’s hardly surprising that drunk driving is a particular risk on March 17. It’s one of the most dangerous days to be on the road, with over one in three fatal crashes involving a driver over the legal blood-alcohol limit. Eighty percent of these drunk-driving crashes on St. Patrick’s Day involved a driver with blood alcohol at almost twice the legal limit. Between 2009 and 2013, 276 people lost their lives due to drunk-driving crashes on St. Patrick’s Day.
The best way to avoid being in an accident as a result of the holiday is to take a cab home or designate a sober driver. Getting behind the wheel when you’re drunk is incredibly dangerous—your reaction times, decision-making ability and motor coordination are severely impaired—but it’s just as dangerous to get in a vehicle operated by someone who’s over the limit. Although 0.08 percent is the legal maximum blood-alcohol content, the negative effects of alcohol on your driving ability start much sooner, so it’s best not to drink any alcohol before driving.
Celebrating St. Patrick’s Without Excessive Drinking
Sadly, the tragedies associated with drunk driving and binge drinking are a regular feature of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. It’s a time when ordinary Americans become alcoholics for the day and head out to do stupid things in the name of cultural heritage. If you’re in recovery or simply want to have a good time without doing damage to your body, the best advice is to plan ahead for having a binge-free St. Paddy’s: have a polite but firm “No, thank you” prepared for when you’re offered a drink and an “escape plan” (such as a pre-prepared reason) for when you want to go home. If you’re at a party with family or friends, you can prepare a virgin cocktail or another drink that looks enough like alcohol to avoid attracting undue attention to your non-drinking.
Alcohol isn’t a necessity for enjoying St. Patrick’s Day, and in fact, you’ll probably find that you actually remember the fun you had as opposed to spending the evening on the verge of vomiting. You can have all of the fun without the abundant risks associated with binge drinking or the more everyday forms of punishment (think hangover) for a night of excess.
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