Uncle Sam has been waging the War on Drugs for more than 40 years but chances are he’s plotting his next battle strategy with a stiff drink in hand. According to a recent Salon piece, we need to shift some of our national attention from drugs to figuring out why we’re all so heavily abusing one in particular—alcohol. Because here’s the thing: while most of us know alcohol is a drug, it’s somehow not one that kids are encouraged to “just say no” to.
Alcohol Use Run Amok
While we continue to talk about the possible negative impact of more lenient marijuana laws, the pitfalls of medication-assisted treatment for opiate addiction and how to handle massive prescription drug dependence, we keep on drinking—a lot.
According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Americans are drinking more and, perhaps more importantly, consuming more alcohol in one sitting. The study conducted research on people over the age of 21 and concluded that among this group, “heavy drinking” rose 17.2 percent between 2005 and 2012. Just a reminder, the Centers for Disease Control defines heavy drinking as more than two beverages per drinking sesh for dudes and more than one for ladies. Wowza, looks like anyone on the planet who consumes alcohol must be a heavy drinker.
That jump is interesting, considering findings from the 2014 Monitoring the Future study found binge drinking (defined as more than five drinks for dudes and more than four for gals) among US college kids is actually down—probably because they’re enjoying the more lax marijuana laws and still oblivious to cruel realities of adulthood that drive grownups to drink (joking, sort of). There aren’t necessarily more people drinking. The number of American citizens who drink alcohol is holding steady at 56 percent, but the ones who do are going hard core.
The Breakdown of Our Breakdown
The females are taking the lead in all this heavy boozing. There was a 17.5 percent increase in binge drinking for women from 2005 to 2012. Researchers concur that women are trying to keep up with men in alcohol consumption and that behavior has become socially acceptable. Ladies, I think this is one area where we don’t want to be equal to men.
Who else is helping to contribute to this increased binge drinking trend? Well, educated and white collar folks of course. According to a Gallup poll referenced in the report, only about half of lower income Americans admit to drinking, but in the higher economic category these numbers jump to eight out of 10. They claim these numbers are linked to wealthier people having more access to alcohol-centric occasions like boozy dinners at fancy restaurants and vacations. Then there’s the whole “work hard, play hard” bull sh*t to which everyone is supposed to subscribe in the corporate world. I never understood how my friends working 50-60 hour weeks were also expected at client happy hours that go way beyond 5 pm cocktails. Every night. Who can maintain that lifestyle for a prolonged period without suffering some consequences?
This isn’t to say the lower socioeconomic status population isn’t drinking or suffering the consequences. According to the report:
“It seems important to recognize that while more affluent people drink on average, the consequences of drinking are often less severe than they are for poorer Americans. Researchers suggest this is partly because, despite drinking similar amounts, poorer people tend to drink to excess more often than wealthier people, who spread their consumption over more time.”
Of course, those to fall into this category usually have different reasons for overdoing it.
Happy Hour Isn’t That Cheap
The bottom line is, practicing moderate drinking isn’t exactly a priority for the majority of people who drink. The havoc this can wreak over time is what ultimately has detrimental effects to our health, relationships and wallet. The piece goes on to say:
“A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control finds that binge drinking among Americans costs the country nearly $250 billion annually in lost productivity in the workplace, alcohol-related crimes and treatment for the health issues that result from excessive alcohol consumption.”
So, assuming these people drinking heavily aren’t necessarily all alcoholics in need of treatment, should we start figuring out why we abuse the bottle so much as a country, despite the dangers? Seeing a tweaker with no teeth and scary skin sufficiently freaks most of us out from trying Methamphetamine but apparently seeing a sedan wrapped around a telephone pole as a result of drunk driving isn’t quite as jarring. It’s clear we love to numb out, but wouldn’t we be doing everyone a favor by figuring out less destructive ways to do it?