Wee bit o' drinking: Celebrate St. Patrick's Day in moderation

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com

Plans to celebrate St. Patrick's Day should include plenty of alcohol-free diversions, according to Donna Jenkins, a mental health counselor with the Community Counseling Center in Cape Girardeau.

The point of such social celebrations as St. Patrick's Day, she said, "is going out and enjoying the company that you are keeping."

Jenkins said even those who have strong beliefs are about drinking still succumb to peer pressure while out on the town. She said the best way to avoid alcohol is by planning nondrinking fun — karaoke, video games, shooting pool or throwing darts.

"If you know that you have friends that will not respect your wishes when it comes to drinking, you may consider whether or not you really want to put yourself in that situation," she said.

Having a good time could mean skipping the booze or it could mean drinking moderately, she said — as long as the drinker doesn't get behind the wheel.

Overindulging can lead to an assortment of injuries, car crashes, sexual or other types of assault, unplanned sex and possibly pregnancy. Walking home after a night on the town carries its own risk — more than a third of pedestrians struck by cars each year are found to have been impaired by alcohol.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, each standard drink — a 12-ounce beer or wine cooler, five ounces of wine or a 1.5-ounce shot glass of whiskey or other liquor — has about a tablespoon-and-a-half of alcohol

The CDC defines heavy drinking as more than one drink daily for women, and more than two drinks a day for men. Binge drinking, according to CDC guidelines, is a single event where a woman has four or more drinks or a man consumes five or more.

The CDC defines alcohol abuse as drinking habits that disrupt health, relationships or work, and notes that most alcohol abuse in adults can be traced back to teen binge drinking.

Another risk from excessive drinking is alcohol poisoning.

At any age, binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning. According to the CDC, nearly all alcohol poisoning deaths are accidental, because people don't realize that booze can be depress the respiratory system. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include bluish or pale skin, extreme confusion, vomiting, inability to be wakened and slow or irregular breathing. The National Council on Drug and Alcohol Dependence advises that a person with these symptoms receive prompt medical attention. Turn the sick person on his side, to avoid choking on vomit. Stay nearby until medical help arrives.

A website started by the parents of Bradley McCue, who died on his 21st birthday from alcohol poisoning, offers charts with drinking limit guidelines at www.brad21.org/bac_charts.html.

But Lt. J.R. "Buddy" Davis, patrol division supervisor for the Cape Girardeau Police Department, cautions that charts can mislead because "some people have a very low tolerance to alcohol. One drink can be too much."

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

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