When Does Social Drinking Become a Problem?




St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated this weekend around Chicagoland and other cities in such a way that is done every year: Everyone wears green, drinks green beer, attends parades and parties, and individuals who have no trace of Irish in them will say that for one day only, they too celebrate this holiday. A concern for this therapist is not so much the celebration itself, but how these individuals are celebrating. Several articles were released this weekend discussing the amount of arrests, drinking tickets, mugging, and public displays of indecency and it was unacceptable.

It makes me think of certain days of the year that trigger thoughts in some people that helps them rationalize excessive drinking and/or drug use even if only for that one specific day. As I reflect on certain holidays I can hear other individuals’ statements: “I have to drink around Thanksgiving and Christmas to put up with my family,” “Let’s get drunk/high and go watch the fireworks,” or for this weekend, “Everyone drinks on St. Paddy’s day, look at the Irish, they’re always drunk!” This last thought not only rationalizes behaviors but it is also offensive to an entire culture.

The article I read this morning that sparked my curiosity was that of a report on the Crime in Wrigleyville on March 15, 2015 (you can find a link to the article at the bottom on this blog). This article takes you through a timeline of crime that was all portrayed in one day and all of these crimes included alcohol. It’s situations such as these that make me cringe and not only worry about the reputation we have as a city, but it makes me worry about the individuals involved in the crimes themselves.

Out of all of the craziness that occurred just in Wrigleyville alone, the most disappointing part of it all (at least for me) is that only three drinking tickets were issued that entire day in the town. I understand that the St. Patrick’s Day traditions are strong in this large city, but what is going to stop the unhealthy behavior? It would be awful to shut down the entire thing, but will anything else really work? Why do we have to rationalize why it is okay to display such behaviors? Why is it okay to binge drink until we black out, vomit, and pass out on the streets or in a cab? The worst part of all of this is that some people may learn their lesson, but others see it as bragging rights to all of their friends for the next year: “Oh man, I got so messed up this weekend, it was awesome! Can’t wait for next year so we can do it all again!”

According to CDC reports more than one fourth of our nation’s adults binge drink and is most common with ages 18-34. Binge drinking does not necessarily mean that an individual is alcohol dependent but it certainly means they are abusing alcohol. The CDC also reported that more than half of the alcohol consumed in the US is in the form of binge drinking, and I feel it would be interesting to take into account certain events and what causes binge drinking (i.e. holidays, birthdays, deaths, relationship status, etc).

I fully support having a good time and going out with friends for celebrations, but it is important to do it responsibly. To have a safe day remember the following:


  1. If you are going to drink, make sure you are with people you know and trust. In the event that you need someone to help you home you do not want to rely on strangers that could take advantage of you. Be with someone that you know can help and vice versa.
  2. Know your limits. Going out for the sake of binge drinking denies this rule. Limits to watch out for are blacking out, vomiting, weak memory, blurry vision, slurring of words, etc. When you feel yourself reaching your limit then you need to STOP.
  3. Eat/Drink plenty of water. Your body needs to absorb everything you are taking in. Without food or water you will dehydrate and you’ll feel the negative affects of drinking.
  4. Have a plan of how to get yourself home before you even leave the house.
  5. Know what you’re drinking. If a stranger passes you something to drink and you have no idea what it is how can you trust it? Keep track of your drinks and what is put in them.
  6. Avoid drinking games. They can be fun, but it is also another great way to binge drink. Drinking games are all about consuming a large amount of alcohol quickly and if you don’t want to hit your limit quickly, these games should be avoided.

I know we cannot avoid completely what happens around the holidays or any other time of year for that matter, but we can do one thing to make sure we do not ruin it for everyone else, and that is to be responsible with our actions. Holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day can be loaded with fun and excitement, but do not necessarily have to include passing out, getting arrested, getting tickets, or worse. So be safe, have fun, and be responsible!




Fact Sheets: Binge Drinking. (2014, January 16). Retrieved March 15, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm

Yuck of the Irish: Wrigleyville Spawns 17 Arrests. (2015, March 15). Retrieved March 15, 2015, from http://www.cwbchicago.com/2015/03/yuck-of-irish-wrigleyville-binge-spawns.html