Ball State study finds high binge drinking rates in Indiana

2013-01-17T22:30:00Z 2013-01-19T00:25:14Z Ball State study finds high binge drinking rates in IndianaVanessa Renderman, (219) 933-3244

A report from Ball State University found more than a third of Indiana adults who drink admit to binge drinking regularly.

The study defines binge drinking as consuming five or more drinks on one occasion for men and four or more drinks on one occasion for women.

“The Burden of Alcohol Use in Indiana,” a report by the Global Health Institute at Ball State, found that in 2011, 51.6 percent of adults classified themselves as regular drinkers, with 34.7 percent binging and 11.8 percent drinking heavily.

The long-term health effects of heavy drinking can be fatal. Drinking too much can lead to a fatty liver, then cirrhosis of the liver, which can lead to liver damage or liver cancer and death, said Dr. Peter Mavrelis, a gastroenterologist and volunteer faculty member at Indiana University Northwest in Gary.

His patients tend to drink more than the amount defined as binging.

"Usually, the people we see are much bigger drinkers," Mavrelis said.

He was surprised by the low amount of alcohol that constituted as binge drinking that was defined in the report. People often consider binge drinking as drinking alcohol to the point of incapacitation, he said.

Indiana has the 32nd highest percentage of binge drinkers and the 39th highest percentage of heavy drinkers among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the study.

Chronic drinking is more dangerous to the body than binge drinking, and women's livers are twice as sensitive as men's, Mavrelis said.

"Anything more than two or three drinks a day, you really have to be careful," he said.

Everyone has a different tolerance to alcohol, and bodies metabolize it differently.

"Just because your friend can hold down two six-packs doesn't mean you can do the same," Mavrelis said.

But, liver damage due to alcohol use can be reversed.

"If you stop drinking, the liver can regenerate," he said. "If you stop and give your liver six months of complete abstinence, your liver can recover remarkably."

The biggest alcohol dangers are automobile accidents linked to drinking and driving, Mavrelis said.

Data for the study was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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