Thursday, August 9, 2007

Binge Drinkers Prefer Beer

This story has been getting a lot of play recently on various beer sites. I originally wasn't going to comment on it, but I've been thinking a lot about it and I realize that I do have something to say.

First of all...duh. America prefers beer to other alcohol choices in general, so doesn't it make sense that we also prefer beer when we want to tie one on? I didn't need a study to tell me that. As for kids preferring the hard stuff, again...not rocket science. Steal some from your parents, water down the supply so no one knows...SOP.

Second, I was originally wondering why everyone was getting so upset about the CDC's definition of binge drinker as having had 5 or more drinks on one occasion in the past 30 days. Then I made the rather obvious realization that the term binge drinker has severely negative connotations and it seems like a cheap shot on their part to judge a large portion of society based on a completely arbitrary designation. Five or more drinks on one occasion in the past 30 days? I'm not sure I know anyone who isn't a binge drinker according to that narrow definition. The definition is arbitrary for at least two reasons. The first is obvious, how did they pick 5? Why not 6? How did they pick 30 days? Why not 14 or 45 or 60? The second reason the definition is completely arbitrary is that there is no context involved whatsoever. A 6'4" 240 pound man could drink 5 Bud Lights and barely feel it, whereas a 5'2" 110 pound woman could be wasted after 5 Bud Lights. Comparatively speaking, the woman did much more harm to her body than the man, but they both satisfy this rigid definition.

In this day and age, everyone is familiar with the concept of blood alcohol content (BAC) as this is the measure of whether you're legally competent to operate a motor vehicle. Everyone knows (or should know) what their limit is based on their weight. Doesn't it make sense then, to create a "binge-drinking BAC level?" For instance, according to this calculator, I could go to a barbecue at 4pm, drink 5 beers over the next 6 hours, leave at 10pm, and have a BAC of less than 4%. Not only would I be safely under the legal limit, according to this site, I would still be under the point where my driving would be impaired. Does going to a barbecue from 4-10 and having 5 beers really sound like deviant and irresponsible behavior? Of course not. Yet, according to the CDC, you're a dirty binge drinker, a common drunk.

Of course, the CDC would never be able to switch to a more reasonable assessment of binge drinking based on BAC levels, say .14 or .15, because then they'd never be able to get government funding to perform these ridiculous "studies." It's easy to call up a "random" person and ask them if they've had 5 drinks on one occasion in the past 30 days, not so easy to ask for the highest BAC they've reached in the past 30 days. The joke though, is with the results they get from asking people if they've had 5 drinks on one occasion in the past 30 days. How many people answered no thinking "well, I don't usually have 5 drinks on one occasion so I'll say no" plus all the people who forget about the occasions when they hit 5. As an experiment, I asked Mandy who said she probably hasn't had 5 on one occasion:

"What about had at least 2 before Adam came over, a couple with Adam, then at least one more after dinner."

"Oh yeah."

So, between Sunday and Wednesday, she had forgotten that she'd had 5 beers spread out over 6-7 hours. I'd be willing to bet that the 15% number is actually much larger.

This whole study is just so frustrating because it essentially means there are no moderate drinkers because if you are a "drinker," chances are you fit the binge drinker definition. I consider myself a moderate drinker in that I have 1-2 beers per night, sometimes I don't have any, and sometimes I have a little more. It averages to about 2 per day every month. However, according to the CDC, I'm a social deviant.

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