Think Before You Drink on St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day means a lot of things to Bostonians, including wearing green, eating corned beef and cabbage, and watching the annual parade in Southie. It can also mean celebrations filled with Guinness and other alcoholic beverages. Before meeting your friends at the pub for a pint, the specialists at Boston Medical Center want to warn you about the dangers of drinking to the point of intoxication, otherwise known as binge drinking.
“Binge drinking causes a variety of problems that can ruin a nice celebration, including injuries, sexual assault, vandalism, domestic violence—and the list goes on,” said Timothy Naimi, MD, MPH, an alcohol epidemiologist at BMC. Higher blood alcohol levels can have a number of negative consequences: injuries, loss of consciousness, and increased engagement in high-risk, violent, or destructive behavior, such as drinking and driving. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that more than half of the 88,000 alcohol-related deaths that occur each year in the U.S. are due to acute intoxication. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 10,322 deaths (31 percent of overall driving fatalities) in 2012.
It’s not just heavy drinking that carries repercussions. “Small amounts of alcohol can impair driving and occupational performance,” said Jonathan Howland, PhD, MPH, MPA, Professor of Emergency Medicine and Director of the Injury Center Boston Medical Center. “And heavy drinking may affect neurocognitive performance the next day, even after all the alcohol has been metabolized.”