Washington Evening Journal

Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 27, 2014

Binge drinking is high in Iowa officials say

By Andy Hallman, The JOURNAL | Aug 31, 2010

    Washington County SAFE Coalition Coordinator Annette Shipley said binge drinking is a problem in the state of Iowa, and that Washington County is no exception. Shipley said a survey of about 350 adults was done in Washington County this year about the adults’ alcoholic drinking habits. The results of the survey indicated that 20 percent of adults use alcohol at “high risk quantities.” Shipley said that figure is normal compared to the rest of the state.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Iowa is ranked No. 4 in the list of states that binge drink the most. Shipley said the phenomenon is not restricted to Iowa but extends throughout the region. Wisconsin is rated No. 1, North Dakota is No. 2 and Minnesota is No. 3. 

    “In Midwestern states, people drink in high-risk quantities when they drink,” said Shipley. “The majority of people either don’t drink or drink very little, but the ones who do drink are very heavy drinkers.”

    The perception among people in the state is that Iowans are heavy drinkers, said Shipley. However, she said it’s important to accent the fact that the majority of people in the state drink responsibly. 

    Shipley said “low-risk” drinking means consuming one to two 12-ounce beers in a single sitting. She said 0.5 ounces of pure alcohol is considered a standard drink. After three drinks, the alcohol goes into the bloodstream and then to the brain.

    “When the body has to clean alcohol out of its system, it’s a health risk because you become susceptible to heart disease, pancreatitis, diabetes and certain cancers,” said Shipley.

    Binge-drinking constitutes five to six drinks for a man in a single sitting and four to five drinks for a woman. 

    “There are huge health risks when you drink that amount of alcohol,” said Shipley. “The liver shuts down when you add one drink on top of another. It damages other organs, too, yet people can’t see what’s going on inside their bodies.”

    Shipley said it is especially important for persons under 21 years of age to avoid alcohol because it can lead to alcoholism. She said the brain is still developing at age 21, and that consumption of alcohol prior to that time is more likely to form an addiction later in life.

    “Alcohol is a drug, and people don’t usually think of it as a drug because the addiction to it takes longer,” said Shipley.

For more, see our Sept. 1 print edition.

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