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Cost of Binge Drinking in Minnesota $3.5 Billion Annually

PHOTO: The costs associated with excessive alcohol use in Minnesota are $3.5 billion a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CREDIT: Michael Coté
PHOTO: The costs associated with excessive alcohol use in Minnesota are $3.5 billion a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CREDIT: Michael Coté
December 2, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The holidays are a time of celebrating, and often that includes the consumption of alcohol, but those who don't enjoy it in moderation are not only affecting themselves but also putting a big burden on society.

According to Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger, binge drinking has adverse consequences in many areas, including short- and long-term health.

"Certainly liver disease is one of those things, and traffic crashes which kills people and injures people. It also leads to a lot of absenteeism and decreased productivity. It also leads to a lot of domestic violence and other violence. It leads to sexually-transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies," he recounted.

According to the CDC, the yearly total cost in Minnesota from excessive alcohol consumption is around $3.5 billion.

Many efforts have been made in Minnesota to reduce binge drinking, especially among teens and young adults, but Ehlinger noted that it's an issue that cuts across all age categories, so there needs to be a statewide conversation.

"What is the appropriate price of alcohol? What are the enforcement efforts that really should be done? What kind of restrictions should there be on marketing and promotions? What should be the appropriate blood alcohol concentration for driving, because we know that if that is lowered excessive alcohol use goes down?"

Nationally, the cost of excessive alcohol consumption is estimated at more than $200 billion yearly, and Dr. Robert Brewer, alcohol program leader at the CDC, called that a major public health issue.

"We're talking about costs at the state level that are of the same order of magnitude as the cost of smoking, and in many states, the same order of magnitude of the cost of Medicaid. This is a huge burden for society," Brewer declared.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks on one occasion for men, or four or more drinks for women.

The CDC report is at bit.ly/1dHPBmd. Minnesota drinking details are at bit.ly/18fHEgn.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN