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CDC Reports: Binge drinking is a bigger problem than previously thought

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a whopping one in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month, and on average the largest number of drinks consumed is eight. Find out what your community can do to prevent binge drinking.

New estimates show that binge drinking is a bigger problem than previously thought. More than 38 million U.S. adults binge drink, about 4 times a month, and on average the largest number of drinks consumed is eight. Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men over a short period of time.

As reported in this month’s Vital Signs, the CDC found that those who were thought less likely to binge drink actually engage in this behavior more often and consume more drinks when they do. While binge drinking is more common among young adults aged 18–34 years, binge drinkers aged 65 years and older report binge drinking more often—an average of five to six times a month. Similarly, while binge drinking is more common among those with household incomes of $75,000 or more, the largest number of drinks consumed on an occasion is significantly higher among binge drinkers with household incomes less than $25,000—an average of eight to nine drinks per occasion, far beyond the amount thought to induce intoxication.

Adult binge drinking is most common in the Midwest, New England, the District of Columbia, Alaska, and Hawaii. On average, however, the number of drinks consumed when binge drinking is highest in the Midwest and southern Mountain states (Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah), and in some states— such as Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina—where binge drinking was less common.

Binge drinking is a dangerous and costly public health problem.

  • It is important to consider the amount people drink when they binge and how often they do so.
  • Most alcohol-impaired drivers binge drink.
  • Most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent or alcoholics.
  • More than half of the alcohol adults drink is while binge drinking.
  • More than 90% of the alcohol youth drink is while binge drinking.

Binge drinking costs everyone.

  • Drinking too much, including binge drinking, causes more than 80,000 deaths in the United States each year.
  • Drinking too much, including binge drinking, cost the United States $223.5 billion in 2006, or $1.90 a drink, from losses in productivity, health care, crime, and other expenses.
  • Binge drinking cost federal, state, and local governments about 62 cents per drink in 2006, while federal and state income from taxes on alcohol totaled only about 12 cents per drink.
  • Drinking too much contributes to more than 54 different injuries and diseases, including car crashes, violence, and sexually transmitted diseases. Over time, binge drinking also can lead to liver disease, certain cancers, heart disease, stroke, and many other chronic health problems.
  • The chance of getting sick and dying from alcohol problems increases significantly for those who binge drink more often and drink more when they do.

What you can do.

  • Choose not to binge drink and help others not do it.
  • Follow the U.S. Dietary Guidelines on alcohol consumption; if you choose to drink, do so in moderation— no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. Pregnant women and underage youth should not drink alcohol.
  • Support effective community strategies to prevent binge drinking, such as those recommended by the CDC Community GuideExternal Web Site Icon.
  • Support local control over the marketing and sale of alcoholic beverages.
  • Support the minimum legal drinking age of 21 years.
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More older adults getting eating disorders

Read the full article here at the Chicago Sun-Times.

 

Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are typically thought to be diseases of young women and men. But researchers are finding that the personal demons that drive a young person to an eating disorder may linger into adulthood.

More and more middle-aged and older people are coming forward to receive treatment for eating problems that began in their youth and have been reignited by adult stress or personal crises.

That was the case with Alison Smela, 49, of Glen Ellyn. When she was 12, she was given a weight plan to follow over the summer because she was considered overweight. Smela said she went back to school thinner, and people noticed approvingly.

“I got all kinds of attention, and I liked that,” she said. “I equated losing weight with gaining attention.”

Controlling her eating also helped Smela feel better when things seemed too much to handle. “When life got tough, I always knew I could control the scale,” she said.

But as she grew more successful and climbed the corporate ladder, her anorexia spiraled out of control. So did her problem with heavy drinking.

“The more pressure I was under, the more titles I had, I wasn’t dealing with the pressures of the job and of life in a healthy manner,” she said.

When Smela turned 40, she said, she decided to receive treatment for her alcoholism. She’s now nearly a decade sober. But her eating disorder remained untreated, even though she knew she had a problem.

“I presumed alcoholism was more acceptable to society at my age,” she said. “Having an eating disorder wasn’t.”

She turned to the Renfrew Center, which operates a number of eating disorder clinics in the United States.

The center has seen a 42 percent increase in middle-aged female clients since 2001.

Unhealthy eating patterns adopted in adolescence or teen years often continue into adulthood, according to a University of Minnesota study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The study, which followed 2,287 kids as they grew into young adults, found that more than half of the girls had unhealthy eating patterns that continued into their mid- to late 20s.

Eating disorders can be very devastating to the bodies at middle age, when osteoporosis, chemical imbalances and other health issues crop up more easily and have an even more lasting impact on health, experts say. “Older bodies do not have the plasticity that younger bodies do,” he explained. “They can’t tolerate the stresses and risks.”

The specific problems faced by middle-aged people with eating disorders prompted the Renfrew Center to create a separate treatment program specifically tailored to their needs, said Holly Grishkat, a senior director of clinical operations.

What drives someone in midlife to seek help for an eating disorder varies. For Smela, who was 46 at the time she first went to the Renfrew Center, it was her reflection, she said.

“The summer before I went for treatment, I started catching glimpses of myself in a mirror or reflection, and I was scared,” she said. “I saw my body as a whole, and it scared me.”

For Smela, a clear message for anyone suffering in secret is the fact that there’s hope.

“As a ‘seasoned’ woman living an addiction-filled life, I thought there was no way out,” she said. “I now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, there is.”

It is important for mothers to get help, said Dr. Ed Tyson, an eating disorders specialist in Austin, Texas.

“Having an eating disorder makes their children have a 12- to 15-fold greater risk of having an eating disorder,” he said. “They need to do the work and get better, or their children could be at risk.”

Gannett News Service

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