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Studies highlight problem in Western New York

Binge drinking is an increasing problem in Western New York as well as throughout the country. A new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that binge drinking is happening at a much higher rate than previously thought. More than 38 million U.S. adults participate in binge drinking, according to the new study. That equates to one in six people.

The CDC study found the 38 million American adults who binge drink do so on at least four separate occasions per month. That translates to drinking five or more drinks in one sitting for a male (four or more for a female) at least four times a month.

The study also found that while four or five drinks in one sitting is considered a binge, people were consuming closer to eight.

Age and income seem to forecast binge drinking trends. The CDC reports that binge drinking is most common in younger people, as one might suspect, but the binge drinking doesn't stop after they graduate from college. Drinking in excess is seen in high numbers all the way up through age 34. The income group containing the most binge drinkers, at 20.2 percent, is those whose annual income is more than $75,000. However, the income group that binge drinking affects most often is those who make less than $25,000 a year. That group binges an average of five times a month, and consumes the most alcohol per binge: about 8 1/2 drinks.

Although New York State wasn't recognized as one of the highest states in terms of percentage of adults who binge drink, it doesn't mean it's not a problem here. The CDC study identifies a percentage ranging from 18.7 percent to 25.6 percent as having the highest proportion of binge drinkers per state. A study by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield found that the Western New York region has about a 22 percent binge drinking rate. When comparing the CDC data to the data here in Western New York, we would fall under the "high binge drinking" category.

Binge drinking, or drinking at all, might not seem like a problem or cause for concern to many people, but when data suggests that each year 80,000 Americans die because of alcohol, or that that drinking costs an already-suffering economy $223.5 billion, we all should be concerned.

There are several things you can do individually or with your community to help prevent binge drinking and its negative consequences. Start with yourself. Pledge not to binge drink and encourage others to do the same. Drinking in moderation is OK as long as youths and pregnant women abstain.

You can also support current local community efforts such as the Px20 Coalition that work to prevent or decrease binge drinking and underage drinking.

To find out more about the Erie County Px20 initiative please visit www.px20.org or contact Erica at ejboyce@eccpasa.org.

Megan Kunecki is a community educator at the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse.