Hard drinking is the standard procedure for many Chicagoans. The Windy City was listed as the nation’s number one binge-drinking town. The federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released its ranking of the 15 largest metropolitan area last month and found that 25.7 percent of people in the Chicagp area were considered binge-drinkers. This number is more than any other metro area surveyed and well over the national average of 22.7 percent. Houston followed closely behind Chicago with 25.6 percent.
The government’s definition of binge drinking is consuming five or more drinks within two to three hours. Here in Chicago, drinking is a predominant part of life. The cold weather and easy public transportation are factors. There are liquor stores on nearly every other corner in the inner city neighborhoods and the dowtown area is swarming with bars, pubs, and nightclubs. According to the Center for Substance Abuse treatment at SAMHSA, the midwest section of the country which also includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas–has had an elevation in binge drinking over the last few years. People are engaging in these activities without reflection. Most Chicagoans interviewed agreed that binge drinking is a cultural norm, especially among 21-25 year olds, who account for 45.7 percent of the binge drinkers in Chicago. Among genders, 30.5 percent of men and 15.2 percent of women are binge drinkers.
Some people consider the governments definition of a binge drinker a joke. One local drinker says, “The large number of people who drink socially would be binge drinkers.” Having five or six drinks seems like nothing to some people. They just consider it having a good time. Another drinker who consumes five to eight drinks when she goes out once a month considers herself a binge drinker. “When you binge drink, your goal is to consume. I don’t drink often, but when I do, I know it’s to get drunk.”
Many experts find controversy with the government’s definition of binge drinking, instead insisting that blood-alcohol content would be a better measure of whether someone is a binge drinker. Gender differences and differences in body weight, body size, and food consumed should also be taken into consideration since women metabolize alcohol more slowly than men and because of their body composition. When people are consuming more than four or five drinks, it’s beyond what people drink in normal social parameters. It’s also beyond what most bodies can handle, which is the reason for the drinking standard, according to SAMHSA. Putting that much alcohol into your blood stream in a short period of time exceeds your body’s ability to metabolize it and your judgment becomes impaired. One binge drinker professes that she has been drinking heavily since she was 17 and even drank a full case of beer within 12 hours in a drinking contest. Most experts consider that much drinking very foolish, as it creates an increased risk for falls, accidents, physical abuse, and risky sexual behavior. When you’re impaired, you don’t make rational decisions and you or someone else can get hurt. Some drinkers have been known to get behind the wheel of a car and most times such an action results in tragedy.
Besides waking up with a hangover, there are long term concerns of binge drinking. According to SAMHSA, ten percent of binge drinkers become alcohol dependent which can lead to damage of the liver, stomach, and esophagus. Many people don’t consider the negative consequences that can result from binge drinking until it’s too late. When going out for a night on the town, drink responsibly. Be sure to have a designated driver. By doing so, not only can you save your own life, but you can possibly prevent someone else from getting hurt as well.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration