Last updated: February 18. 2013 8:46PM - 1642 Views

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OUR REGION'S problem with binge drinking – as highlighted in a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – tends to be treated here as if it were trivial, something to be snickered about between co-workers or turned into tavern joke material.

Too bad more people in Northeastern Pennsylvania can't see binge drinking for what it truly is – a contributor to our crime troubles and a considerable health threat.

Binge drinking ruins lives.

Binge drinking destroys relationships and careers.

Binge drinking kills.

This subject deserves the attention of area residents in discussions beyond barroom banter, and for reasons other than delivering punch lines.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton region ranks fourth in the nation for its percentage of admitted binge drinkers, at 21.4 percent, according to the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data. Its assessment is based on a 2010 telephone survey, which got input from residents of Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming counties.

The CDC classifies a binge drinker as a man who has five or more alcoholic beverages in a single occasion or a woman imbibing in four or more drinks. College students often are guilty of the reckless habit, but the behavior extends to adults of all ages and income brackets, as reported in a series of articles Sunday and Monday in The Times Leader. In many cases, a binge drinker doesn't have an alcohol dependency but instead abuses it several times a month for other reasons.

Binge drinking is a danger to your health; it's associated with, among other maladies, alcohol poisoning, liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke and poor control of diabetes. Consider, also, the all-too-frequent, drunken episodes involving car crashes, falls, burns, shootings, stabbings and fistfights.

Women's health advocates and others should be equally alarmed at binge drinking's role in these societal woes: unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, domestic violence and sexual assault. Another casualty: children born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

And, of course, don't overlook binge drinking's costly impacts in terms of nuisance crimes, property damage, emergency treatment, police effort and squandered tax dollars.

All told, it's time that more people in Northeastern Pennsylvania take a sobering look at what can be done to discourage binge drinking.

Nipping the habit

Get help.

Find the area's alcohol-abuse treatment programs and support groups by contacting Help Line. Call 1-888-829-1341 or visit www.helpline-nepa.info.

Learn community prevention strategies.

Read recommendations from the National Institutes of Health at www.thecommunityguide.org/alcohol.

Consider campus solutions.

Read "Binge Drinking on America's College Campuses," a Harvard School of Public Health study. Go to www.hsph.harvard.edu/cas/Documents/monograph_2000/cas_mono_2000.pdf.

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