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Have a drinking problem? Alcoholism and binge drinking

Embarking on a weekend filled with Midwest traditions like fish fries, ice fishing, and college or NFL football games often involves the presence of alcohol. However, it’s crucial for men to be aware of the potential risks associated with a drinking problem, including alcoholism, binge drinking and other issues.

cups of beer, wine and alcohol showing a drinking problem with alcoholism and binge drinking

Understanding alcohol dependence

Statistics show that men in Wisconsin are more than twice as likely as women to develop alcohol dependence.

“For decades, alcohol has been a part of Wisconsin culture, but it’s important guys clearly understand the dangers to their health and importance of moderation,” said Kirsten Vetterkind, a Marshfield Clinic Health System family medicine nurse practitioner. “Many people are part of families in which it’s normal behavior to have six beers on Friday and then follow it up that weekend with six more beers during a Packers game.”

For men under 65, keep your alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day. Women may consume one drink or less per day. People older than 65? No more than one drink per day.

Examples of one drink are:

  • Beer – 12 ounces.
  • Wine – 5 ounces (about a half glass).
  • Distilled alcohol (gin, whiskey, vodka, etc.) – 1.5 ounces.

Health impacts of a drinking problem

While some studies have suggested alcohol in moderation can have some health benefits, including cardiovascular benefits, drinking too much can lead to health issues. Among them are:

  • High blood pressure, heart disease
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Liver failure
  • Cancer (breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and colon)
  • Weakened immune system
  • Learning and memory problems like early onset dementia
  • Relationship problems

“Men also are more inclined to take risks than women. Those risks include driving while drunk and unprotected sex,” Vetterkind said. “Those risks don’t only affect you; they can potentially impact the lives of others.”

Binge drinking awareness

Binge drinking is when you drink enough alcohol to bring your blood-alcohol content up to the legal limit for driving. That works out to about five alcoholic drinks for men or four for women in less than 2 hours.

Binge drinking is a prevalent concern, with men in Wisconsin averaging 12.5 binge-drinking episodes annually.  That’s roughly four times more than women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Contrary to common misconceptions, occasional binge drinking is not a safe practice and can lead to health problems and an elevated risk of alcohol dependence.

“Binge drinking can lead to health issues and also puts men more at risk for developing alcohol dependence,” Vetterkind said.

Have an open dialogue about alcohol use

Addressing alcohol-related issues can be challenging, but it is vital for men to speak openly about their drinking habits, especially if it is a problem.

Vetterkind said most often male patients lie and simply say they never have more than two drinks per day.

“The key is trust,” Vetterkind said. “All patients need to know that any conversation with their doctor is protected by law. We as doctors don’t want to lecture you. We want to help, but we have to know the truth.”

Talk to your primary care provider if you think you have a drinking problem.

Schedule an appointment Message your provider

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4 responses to “Have a drinking problem? Alcoholism and binge drinking”

  1. Jim Okraszewski

    This article is much more informative then the previous although both helped. Thank you for sending it. I did not know that a man over 65 should drink less than one under that age. Good to know that as I am over 65.

  2. Kathleen Nvotny

    If a man drinks 6 beers a day everyday is that alcoholism My husband claims t is not because it is beer. Your opinion please

    1. Jake Miller

      Hi, Kathy,

      Thanks for the inquiry. I reached out to Dr. Eric Penniman, who is quoted in the story you read. Below is his response:

      Research has shown that up to 14 alcohol equivalents per week will not have a long term detriment to one’s health. An alcohol equivalent is defined as a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine or one shot of liquor. Therefore, six beers per day far exceeds a moderate amount of alcohol. The consumption of six beers daily over time may result in several health problems later in life. Folks resistant to changing their drinking habits may have an alcohol dependence problem. The culture in Wisconsin is very detrimental to this societal problem since Wisconsin ranks as one of the top states in America for alcoholism.

      Many Wisconsinites feel that because all of their friends and family drink this much, that it is probably OK. Convincing someone they need to change is a long-term process by which you can continue to offer to help your them find help. Often, patients with serious dependency issues don’t seek out help until they experience health problems. For the person possibly dealing with alcohol dependence, it’s best for them to first seek the help of his or her personal physician.

      1. Mike

        You guys need to take a class on OPERATIONAL DEFINITION before you use a simple number to put someone in a category. Is that 6 beers for a 300 LB man or a 125 LB man? Is that craft beer at 9% alcohol or lite beer at 3.5%? Is that 6 beers in a two-hour period or 6 beers over a 10-hour period?

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