Be Smart When Partying This New Year's Eve
Binge drinking nothing to laugh about
For many years, I worked in restaurants where it was all hands on deck for the holidays, especially for New Year's Eve parties. Most of these affairs had an open bar, with limitless drinks included in the price. There isn't enough space in this column to relate all the drinking-related stories I've acquired over the years. Admittedly, some were silly and harmless, like the guest who curled up and fell asleep in the middle of the dance floor. (His pals let him sleep a while, then drove him home.)
Likewise, I can't tell you how many times management had to cut someone off before things got out of hand. Forget about the comical view taken on television or in the movies of sophomoric behavior after too many drinks. (Note: lampshades are still a fashion faux pas.) The sight of drunken, ill-behaved adults was not pretty. (I'll spare you the details of one guy who mistook the DJ booth for the men's room.)
Anyway, having a cocktail or two is often part of celebrating the holidays with friends and family. And I am not about to preach. But for some of us, the partying doesn't stop there. Binge drinking—usually not associated with alcohol dependency—can be a real problem, especially around the holidays when we tend to indulge a little too much in good food and cheer.
The statistics for binge drinking are staggering. The Centers for Disease Control reports that 70 percent of binge drinking episodes involve adults who are ages 26 and older. And 75 percent of all the alcohol consumed in the United States is in the form of binge drinks, which for men involves having five or more drinks in a span of two hours. For women, the number of drinks in the same time span is four or more.
Think about it. How many times have we been asked to "do shots" at a party? Or heard, "C'mon, have one for the road"? It cannot be stressed enough that binge drinking is dangerous, any way you cut it.
The issues with binge drinking go far deeper than the short term effects, like becoming ill, passing out and waking up with a hangover. Binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning, accidents (car crashes, falls, drowning, burns), violent crimes, sexual abuse—all of which can lead to a boat load of legal as well as medical problems.
The good news is that the number of alcohol-related deaths in New Jersey has fallen dramatically from 622 in 1982 to a low of 189 in 2009, according to statistics. But even with this significant drop, New Jersey still ranks among the top 10 states in the country with alcohol-related fatalities.
Police departments are taking the bull by the horns and participating in a statewide "Over the Limit, Under Arrest" campaign, under the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety. Officers will be out looking for drunk drivers and setting up check points in some towns.
To this, I raise my cup of coffee and offer a toast of thanks.