By Marty Ferrero, Senior Clinical Director Adult Services Caron Treatment Centers
Alcohol is prevalent in our culture and often plays a prominent role in tailgate parties or other sports events. Alcohol advertisements can also be aggressive – depicting alcohol as an important contributor to a man’s confidence and sexual identity.
However, when “a few drinks” are more than a couple, men underestimate the danger they put themselves in. The recent Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the longer Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report revealed some disturbing statistics, including: six people die from alcohol poisoning every day (nearly 2,200 per year), most of them men. Additionally, the report found the greatest number of deaths from alcohol occurred in the 35-to-64-year-old age group. Many might assume young adults would be more fitting for this statistic given the stereotype of college kids binge drinking at frat parties, but the CDC’s research illustrates this is not the case.
Alcohol poisoning occurs when a person drinks a significant amount of alcohol in a short amount of time. For men, binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks on one occasion. The high levels of alcohol can severely affect the brain, shutting down critical areas that control heart rate, breathing, and body temperature, with fatal results.
A number of men may not see themselves as having a problem and family members may not recognize their loved one is drinking to excess. If you’re a man who drinks alcohol on a regular basis, consider whether you identify with the following statements and if you’re a family member, consider whether your loved one might use these statements to justify his drinking.
Have you ever made one of these statements about how much you drink?
1. I never miss work, therefore, I don’t drink too much.
As the CDC report points out, ninety percent of binge drinkers are not alcohol-dependent. But binge drinking still pushes the envelope concerning one’s health and greatly increases your risk for becoming an alcoholic.
More than 38 million U.S. adults binge drink an average of four times per month and consume an average of eight drinks per binge, according to the report. If those are the averages for the amount and frequency of alcohol use, which signifies a number of respondents are drinking even more than that the average. These are disturbing statistics and they contribute to the six alcohol related deaths each day.
Alcohol is a poison and when too much enters your system too quickly, dangerous events start to occur. I find these deaths from binge drinking heart-breaking.
2. I work hard; I deserve to have a few drinks occasionally.
As Partnership for Drug-Free Kids reports: "Employees who work more than 48 hours a week are almost 13 percent more likely to engage in risky drinking, compared with those who work less, a new study suggests."
Additionally, having a drink or two once in awhile does not pose a problem. But, it's easy to lose track of how much you’ve consumed, especially at an event like a football game, where you might start drinking at the tailgate before the game and continue throughout. It is also important to pay attention to your behavior around drinking. Do you turn to alcohol to relax, to celebrate, or to feel comfortable socially? If you find that you turn to alcohol for these types of reasons you may need to reevaluate your drinking or seek support.
3. I can handle my liquor.
Some of our patients admit that they’ve had way more than 12 beers daily and think that’s not a problem because they don’t get drunk. This is a sign of high tolerance, in which it takes more alcohol to feel the effects, and it doesn’t mean a person won’t succumb to alcohol poisoning eventually if they continue to drink like this. You can slip into a coma and not even be aware you’re crossing the line.
4. I've never even had a DUI.
That may just mean you’re smart enough to get a ride home or use a designated driver when you go out with a group, which is commendable. But, you may still be drinking at too high an intensity which can negatively impact your health. Alcohol can depress the respiratory system, like heroin, or a person may suffocate in their own vomit, for example.
5. I'm fine; I'm in great shape physically.
That’s great, it’s a myth that working out and eating well can ward off the effects of binge drinking. Again, alcohol poisoning can be fatal. And if it’s not, if frequent binge drinking starts you on the path to becoming alcohol-dependent, you may not even notice that you’re turning a corner.
If you think you or a loved one may have an issue with drugs or alcohol, please call us at 1-800-854-6023.