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Dr. Zorba Paster: Are you a binge drinker?

With summer vacation fast approaching, this is the time of year when many of us kick back, contemplate the beautiful sunset and enjoy a few cold beverages.

In my family of inveterate nondrinkers, that meant Cokes or Pepsis. But when I came to the great state of Wisconsin, I found out it meant a few brews or a brandy old-fashioned.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying some libation – if you’re not an alcoholic. Time and time again when I mention that a drink a day is OK, I get calls from people with an alcohol problem asking, “Can I really have a drink?” For that group the answer is no. Just thought I would spell that out in case anyone from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union is reading this.

Now back to the issue: Wisconsin is numero uno for binge drinking. And that’s not something we should be proud of.

Statistics show that 25 percent of Wisconsinites have downed four to five drinks in a two-hour period, the simple definition of a binge, this last year. For one in four of you, that is just too much. (New York is in the middle of the pack, at about 15 percent.)

Lots of people think they don’t have an alcohol problem if they stay dry, or nearly dry, during the week and only drink on the weekend. But binge drinking on a regular basis is simply not healthy.

If you need to drink, if it’s a compulsive behavior, then it’s dependency. That means you need help. And having one for the road, the slogan from “Mad Men” times, is more than passé, it’s stupid.

So I have some suggestions that may seem simple but are worthwhile to consider, especially if you’re among the almost one in six New York State binge drinkers or you have a young person you’re concerned about:

1. Talk to your children You may have talked to them before about drinking, but now is the time. That means having another good-faith discussion on the perils of booze and cars, a deadly mix.

2. Talk to your friends or relatives If you think they’re drinking too much, chances are they’re drinking too much. If you don’t tell them, who will? You might hurt their feelings, but you can handle it. Just starting the conversation is the best thing you can do.

3. Ask yourself If, gentle reader, you think you may be binge drinking yourself, you probably are. There’s help out there. You may be able to cut down on your own – many can – or change your relaxation habit by alternating your drinks with other beverages. That can be an easy solution.

The bottom line here is to take action. Leaving our binge drinkers to binge is not the best policy.

Email Dr. Zorba Paster at