St. Patrick’s Binge Risks
Ads featuring leprechauns, four-leaf clovers and mugs of green beer are out in full-force promoting pub crawls and other St. Patrick’s Day events, all aimed at encouraging people to drink early and often. While you might share an Irish toast with your friends (“Sláinte” or “health”), there’s nothing healthy about the near-mythical boozing that’s become associated with the Irish holiday.
“Drinking enough alcohol to get drunk quickly is considered binge drinking,” says emergency room physician Andrew Miller, DO, Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest. “For a man, that means drinking five or more drinks within two hours, or a woman drinking four or more drinks in that same timespan.”
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Drinking that much alcohol within a short period of time puts you at risk for a number of issues. “Your balance becomes impaired, so that puts you at increased risk for falling. Alcohol lowers your body temperature, so this time of year, excess drinking puts you at risk for hypothermia. And when you over-consume alcohol, you are certainly at risk for alcohol poisoning which places your blood alcohol concentration above .08 percent,” Miller says.
Because reasoning and concentration are among the first executive functions affected by alcohol consumption, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says binge drinking increases the chances you could be involved in a car crash, either as a passenger or driver. You may also be at higher risk for physical or sexual assault.
Improve your luck
Instead of falling for pub crawl mentality, choose a healthier St. Patty’s Day plan.
- Enjoy a toast with your friends but then stick to water.
- Make sure if you drink alcohol that you also eat to slow absorption of alcohol.
- Know when it’s time to stop drinking.
- Opt to be the designated driver for your friends and only drink water, soda or other no-alcohol beverages
If you are with someone who has consumed alcohol to excess, seek emergency help. “People who are that intoxicated can asphyxiate on vomit,” Miller says. If the concern is more about alcohol dependence, have an honest discussion with your primary care physician. “Your physician or health care provider can help determine if you have a drinking problem and then help you find the right help,” he says.