Alcohol Consumption Problem in N.H., Not Just Heroin
New Hampshire has been in the news a lot lately due to the heroin epidemic and increasing numbers of overdose deaths. In fact, New Hampshire ranks third-highest per capita for drug deaths nationally, falling behind West Virginia and New Mexico.
But that’s not the Granite State’s only substance abuse issue – not by a long shot.
Two years ago, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) issued a report (2012) which placed New Hampshire at #1 for amount of alcohol consumed per capita.
How Bad Is It?
At 4.65 gallons per capita consumption of ethanol, it was nearly twice the national average – 2.33. In fact, five New England states ranked in top 20, including Vermont, Delaware, Maine, and Rhode Island. Connecticut came it at #26, which is baffling considering how conservative their alcohol consumption laws are.
The report compared sales data for alcoholic beverages with the 14+ population for all states, including Washington D.C., to account for underage alcohol consumption. Sales for beer, wine, and spirits were converted to estimate pure alcohol content.
In 2010, a plan was created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Safety entitled Healthy People 2020. The goal of this plan is to promote health and increase disease prevention. It set the nationwide target for per capital alcohol consumption at 2.1 gallons. To hit that goal, that’d be quite a substantial alcohol consumption reduction in N.H.
Wine and spirits are preferred over beer, which means that New Hampshire residents are consuming drinks with a greater alcohol content than average. For example, in the U.S., beer makes up about half the alcohol consumption nationwide. In New Hampshire, however, it’s only 41%. This fact is partially what puts New Hampshire so high on the list.
On the positive side, however, drunk driving statistics seem to be steadily improving.
What is Heavy Drinking? What are the Dangers?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heavy drinking is 8 or more drinks per week for women, and 15 or more for men. Heavy drinking is the #3 cause of preventable death.
1 in 10 deaths among age 20-64 are due to excessive drinking – moreover, that’s about 88,000 fatalities. And most – about 70% – are men.
Also according to the CDC, a standard “drink,” is 12 oz. of beer, 8 oz. of malt liquor, 5 oz. of wine or 1.5 oz, of 80-proof liquor.
Heaving drinking may contribute to chronic diseases, including conditions of the throat, larynx esophagus, pancreas, stomach, and liver. It pretty much wreaks havoc on the entire digestive system – nothing is immune to its effects. It may also cause high blood pressure and increases the risk of heart-related diseases (cardiomyopathy).
Meanwhile, A Seabrook state representative, Max Abramson (R) is looking to allow limited underage drinking. This would mean that 18-20 years could drink if in the presence of someone over the age of 21.
His position is that the legislation would increase the number of underage persons who are drinking responsibly. Indeed, teenage alcoholism is less prevalent in those countries with lower drinking ages, at least when compared to the United States.
The bill would make a .05 BAC legal for persons under 21, so binge drinking and intoxication still illegal. And the bill would only apply to beer and wine, not liquor.
Generally speaking, law enforcement doesn’t care much for the bill. For example, Hampton Chief Richard Sawyer stated he is against lowering the legal drinking age:
“I think it’s ridiculous, Any study will show you that the number of fatalities and tragedies based on alcohol consumption by people in that age group goes up when they’re allowed to drink. In my opinion, if we allow a law like this, we will see increasing instances of fatalities and tragedies.”
Since the nationwide legal drinking age turned 21, there’s been a lot of complaints about what 18-year-old adults should or shouldn’t do. An example often used is that an 18-year-old can serve in the military and die for their country, but they can’t have a beer.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but given New Hampshire’s high rate of alcohol consumption, lawmakers should probably tread lightly. I find it a bit odd that this bill comes amidst the haze of all this substance abuse.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology
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