Tag Archives: binge drinking

Alcohol causes 1 in 20 deaths in Massachusetts – BUSPH

Alcohol’s health, safety and economic toll on the Bay State residents far outstrips revenues from state alcohol taxes, according to a new report from Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH).

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol kills on average 2,760 people per year. The leading causes include 641 poisoning deaths, 350 deaths from alcoholic liver disease, 294 deaths from cancers attributable to alcohol use, and 211 liver cirrhosis deaths.

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Alcohol’s toll in terms of death and disability rose by 13.8% from 2009 to 2019—faster than lung cancer, diabetes, hypertension, dietary risks or tobacco use. During the pandemic, nearly two in five (38%) of Massachusetts adults reported they increased their drinking, while nationwide, deaths involving alcohol increased by 25.5% from 2019 to 2020.

Meanwhile, the state’s alcohol taxes have lost 72% of their value in real dollars since they were last raised, and now amount to less than a nickel per drink. The CDC estimated that alcohol problems cost the state $5.6 billion in 2010, the last year for which an estimate is available. Of that, $2.26 billion (or $345 per person and $.77 per drink consumed) was paid directly by governments.

“Alcohol is clearly not paying its way in the Bay State,” said Rep. Kay Khan (D-11th Middlesex District), in response to the report. Rep. Khan has repeatedly introduced bills in the legislature to increase the state’s alcohol tax. “Our taxes on alcohol are far out of date, while alcohol problems have continued to increase.”

Massachusetts has a reputation for strict alcohol policies and high taxes, but according to the report, this is inaccurate. While Bay State drinkers consume and binge drink more than the national average, the state’s alcohol policies rank 17th in restrictiveness among the 50 states, and they have fallen behind other states in moving in more restrictive directions.

Massachusetts has five times as many licenses for bars and restaurants as are permitted in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Of 16 states that set quotas on retail alcohol outlets, just three—Montana, South Dakota and Washington State—are more generous with these licenses than the Bay State.

And the state’s taxes on beer and wine are the lowest of the New England states, while its tax on distilled spirits is lower than all its neighbors except New Hampshire, which sells spirits at a discount in its state-run stores.

“In Massachusetts, alcohol policies are mostly discussed from a business point of view,” said David Jernigan, lead author of the report and a professor of health law, policy and management at BUSPH. “Health and safety data tell a different alcohol story, and need to be part of the policy debate.”

Binge drinking—consuming four or more drinks for females or five or more for males within two hours—is the most common and costly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the U.S., according to the CDC. In Massachusetts, binge drinking is common among both in the general population and among underage drinkers: 44% of current (past-30 day) drinkers age 12 and above, and 63% of current underage drinkers (ages 12-20) binged in the past month.

“The fact that Massachusetts has such a high rate of youth binge drinking is very concerning,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education and previously Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health. “This is no doubt linked to the easy and widespread availability of cheap alcohol, and is a public health issue that I hope we will tackle in the new legislative session.”

Blogger’s note: What fascinated me about these stats is that they don’t include deaths or casualties from drunk driving.


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Stay-at-home orders tied to an increase in harmful alcohol consumption – Study

Duh, this can’t be a surprise to many people.

Binge drinkers increased their alcohol consumption by nearly 20% during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, according to new research by public health experts at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). Their study, published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, is one of the first to analyze the association of stress caused by the pandemic and dangerous alcohol consumption.

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The study team surveyed nearly 2,000 adults in the United States in the spring of 2020. Their questions aimed to understand any stressors participants were experiencing stemming from COVID-19 lockdown orders, including amount of time spent at home, how many individuals were living in the participants’ household, any current or previous instances of depression, and any job impacts related to the pandemic such as decreased pay. They also surveyed participants about their drinking habits, classifying them as either binge drinkers, non-binge drinkers, or nondrinkers.

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Key brain region for controlling binge drinking found

A team of National Institutes of Health-funded researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina has found that deactivating a stress-signaling system in a brain area known for motivation and emotion-related behaviors decreases binge drinking. The study, which was published online in February and is to appear in the May issue of Neuropharmacology, pinpoints a particular system in a specific brain region that can be manipulated to reduce harmful binge drinking.

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The MUSC team was led by Howard C. Becker, Ph.D., director of the Charleston Alcohol Research Center and professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences.

“Binge drinking is one of the most common patterns in which alcohol is consumed,” explained Becker. “It’s a risky behavior, and one consequence of repeated binge drinking is increasing risk for developing an alcohol use disorder.”

Further, according to Becker, those who consistently binge drink, particularly during adolescent and college years, have almost 10 times the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.

But how much alcohol must be consumed to qualify a drinking session as a binge?

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Binge Drinking Raises Risk of Cognitive Decline

Regular readers are aware smoking is just not on as far as I am concerned here on the blog. It is simply self-destructive behavior. Besides lung cancer, smoking damages every organ in the body. I hope that regular readers are not smokers. Ditto binge drinking. I know this sounds like something from wild college days, but it turns out that there are a lot of adults out there who overdo the alcohol scene.

Because my family has both Alzheimers’ Disease and dementia on both sides, I am especially sensitive to cognitive decline. I want very much to keep my mental faculties intact for my entire life.

For that reason, I was struck by an item in USA TODAY by Janice Lloyd reporting from Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver, Canada that binge drinking increases the risk of cognitive decline.

“Adults ages 65 and older who reported binge drinking at least twice a month were 2½ times more likely to suffer cognitive and memory declines than similar-aged adults who don’t binge-drink.
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