Beer the favourite tipple of binge drinkers

A new study has revealed that for most adult binge drinkers beer is the favoured tipple.

Binge drinkers it seems are more likely to have a beer can in their hand than a glass of wine or a spirit.

According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the preferred beverage of excessive alcohol drinkers is important to public health because binge drinking is such a common problem in the United States.

Lead study author Dr. Timothy Naimi, says binge drinkers and those around them are especially vulnerable to alcohol-related problems, because the behaviour leads to many deaths because of its role in car crashes, violence and other traumatic injury.

Alcohol is blamed for 75,000 deaths annually.

A binge drinker is defined as someone who had five or more alcoholic drinks on at least one occasion in the last 30 days; about 15 percent of U.S. adults fit that profile, and most are men, according to federal statistics.

Dr. Naimi is a medical epidemiologist with the CDC’s Division of Adult and Community Health and he says the study is not concerned with alcohol consumed by people drinking responsibly, or moderately but rather about people drinking five or more alcoholic drinks in a session with the result that they are impaired if not overtly intoxicated.

The study, a report on the alcohol preferences of more than 14,000 binge drinkers across 18 states, found that 74% of binge drinkers drank beer exclusively or predominantly in their most recent binge-drinking episode.

Beer was the culprit in 67 percent of binges; distilled spirits or liquor was second with 22%; and wine and other flavored premixed drinks accounted for 11% of binge drinks.

When it comes to the first choice of drinkers who are most likely to cause harm because of alcohol-fueled behaviour, beer was the outright first.

Naimi says among this group are some of the most dangerous examples - underage drinkers, people who drank eight or more drinks on one occasion and people who drove during or just after their drinking episode.

According to Naimi many effective policies to deal with many aspects of binge drinking have not been widely adopted.

Laws related to selling alcohol to minors or selling to those who are already drunk are not reliably enforced says Naimi.

The CDC researchers say that laws taxing alcohol and limiting its accessibility do curb excessive drinking, but in the United States beer sales enjoy favourable treatment over liquor and wine.

Beer is on sale in far more locations, especially outlets such as convenience stores and gas stations where impulse buying is common.

Naimi says beer taxes at the state and federal level are low and in terms of aggressive marketing to young adults, beer is king, especially amongst those most likely to drink and get drunk.

Dr. Naimi says all these factors possibly contribute to the study findings, but they might also be influenced by social factors, family habits or country of origin and choosing an alcoholic beverage is a complicated formula and an important limitation of the study.

The researchers say from a public health standpoint, that beer is marketed, taxed and distributed in a more permissive way than other beverages, does not make sense and they are calling for more equal and stringent laws and policies to limit excessive drinking across all types of alcoholic beverages.

Experts agree and say toughening beer-control laws is a good first step toward reducing binge-drinking and raising prices will reduce underage drinking and binge drinking.

They say changing culture and longtime habits is very difficult to do, but the popular belief that beer is the alcoholic beverage of moderation and that it is really not as dangerous as distilled spirits, is challenged by the study.

The study appears in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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