Before You Reach for that Green Beer . . .
Three things are inevitable come St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago: festive parades will dot the Chicago landscape, the Chicago River will be dyed bright green, and revelers will consume astonishing amounts of alcohol.
Binge drinking has become a given for many on St. Patrick’s Day. But consuming enough alcohol to be considered binge drinking – usually 5 drinks for men and 4 drinks for women within two hours, according to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – has repercussions that last long after the river returns to its normal color.
For years, health professionals have warned that regular binge drinking can lead to health-related problems such as liver damage, brain damage, heart problems, infertility, cancer and stroke. It’s also linked to an uptick in injuries, acts of violence, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy complications.
But new research from Rutgers University reveals that binge drinking can actually alter a person’s DNA. By essentially stunting two specific genes – one that impacts the biological clock and one that regulates stress response – binge drinking changes drinking behavior, making the drinker crave alcohol even more.
While binge drinkers aren’t necessarily alcoholics, this new study reveals the way that repeated binge drinking can lead a person down the path to addiction.
Dr. Michelle Turnbough, Director of Clinical Programs at The Salvation Army’s Freedom Center, which houses rehabilitation services and an inpatient substance abuse treatment program, warns binge drinkers to be alert for the signs of alcohol dependence, such as drinking more than intended, drinking more during the week, injuring themselves or others, and the onset or exasperation of psychological or physical problems.
The good news is that it’s easy to avoid the ill effects of drinking too much alcohol this St. Patrick’s Day with a little planning. “Have others with you,” Dr. Turnbough recommends. “A sober person can help monitor your behavior.” This is especially helpful if you know you struggle with unhealthy drinking.
Other tips to enjoy a healthy St. Patrick’s Day:
- Decide in advance how many drinks you will enjoy during your celebration.
- Strive to drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you consume, and be sure to eat.
- Use the buddy system: No one in your group should leave alone or with a stranger.
- Arrange for a designated driver or plan to get home via bus, train, taxi or ride share service.
If you are concerned about your or a loved one’s drinking and want information about treatment programs, visit safreedomcenter.org or call 312-667-2200. Join the Fight for Good and make a donation today to support The Salvation Army’s substance abuse treatment programs.