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Binge Drinking Study ‘Frightening, Not Surprising’

June 4, 2009, 4:56 PM by Shawn Neisteadt

Binge Drinking Study ‘Frightening, Not Surprising’
They're not even old enough to drive a car, and some are still in elementary school, but when it comes to children and binge drinking, South Dakota has one of the highest rates in the nation.

The study released Thursday shows 28 percent of South Dakotans 12 years of age and older binge drink. Counselors say that's frightening because they consider that the most dangerous form of drinking. It can lead to poor decision making, alcohol poisoning and alcoholism.

But despite that concern, for those who've been through treatment or work with recovering alcoholics, the numbers are no surprise.

Alcohol comes in many forms like beer, wine and hard liquor. And now, a national study says more than a quarter of South Dakotans abuse it by drinking more than five drinks in one sitting, at least once a month.

“A lot of people are born alcoholics. They don't know they're alcoholics until they start drinking. That's why they label it a disease and basically it’s a curse," Mark said.

Mark would know. He's a former alcoholic, sober now for 20 years. He's not surprised that the age group of 18 through 25 is highest for binge drinking, at more than 50 percent in South Dakota, because that coincides with the 21 year age limit to drink.

"You know, you were a kid. When your parents told you not to do something, what did you do?  You want to do it more. So I think that's part of it," Mark said.

For Mark, life turned around when he had a spiritual realization.  He says for those who take alcohol too far, that's often what's needed to get started on the road to recovery.

"I'm a sober person. I don't care about drinking. It doesn't enter my mind. And the guy twenty years ago that thought about drinking, got drunk all the time, something happened," Mark said. 

These days Mark is proud to help others overcome their addictions.

North Dakota had the highest percentage of binge drinking, followed by Wisconsin. Minnesota ranked third with Washington, D.C. fourth and South Dakota fifth.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, Utah reported the lowest percentage of binge drinking.

State Estimates of Substance Use Survey Results

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