Rethinking Healthcare

You are probably a binge drinker

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A martini before dinner, a split bottle for two, and a libation with coffee can easily be defined as a binge. You may not see it as one, but your liver does.

Ever finish a bottle of wine and then open a second? Ever have a couple of pops, then split a bottle with dinner, and finish with a cordial? (Picture from CBS.)

Even if you had a designated driver you are defined as a binge drinker. Even if you only do this once a month you're a binge drinker, according to a recent survey in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

So it's small wonder that the survey, conducted by Duke University, found that 23% of men age 50-64, and over an eighth of elderly men, are classified as binge drinkers.

The study's authors said binge drinkers are more likely to smoke or use illegal drugs as well, and that their condition often "lies beneath" other surveys on alcohol use. In other words an unreported epidemic.

Or to put it another way, we're liars. We lie to ourselves about our drinking habits, and may have a problem even if we swear we don't. (I think some of those 97% of old biddies who claimed they never down a bottle over an evening aren't being honest, either.)

The survey was done by contacting almost 11,000 people who responded to a National Survey on on Drug Use and Health in 2005 or 2006, all aged 50 or more.

The headlines resulting from this study were truly silly. Binge Drinking Not Just for College Kids. Baby Boomers are Binge Drinkers, Too.

Word to those headline writers. Based on the Duke criteria so were many in The Greatest Generation. Not to mention all those Minnesota bachelor farmers. What do you think they were downing at the Sidetrack Tap -- iced tea?

I am not arguing here that binge drinking isn't real or isn't a serious health concern. It's just that most of us don't know what it is, so we don't recognize it while we're doing it.

A martini before dinner, a split bottle for two, and a libation with coffee can easily be defined as a binge. You may not see it as one, but your liver does.

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure