Recent study highlights increase in heavy and binge drinking

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COLUMBIA - A recent study showed a big jump in the number of binge and heavy drinkers throughout the United States. Released by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation earlier this week, heavy drinking went up by more than 17% since 2005. The research shows that heavy and binge drinking increased more among women than men. Binge drinking went up by 17.5% between 2005 and 2012 among women compared to 4.9% among men during the same time period.

Going along with national numbers, data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed an increase in binge drinking among both men and women in Boone County between 2002 and 2012. During this time, there was a 1.5% increase in binge drinking among women and a 2.5% increase in binge drinking among men. Data shows a 1.8% increase in heavy drinking among women and 2.4% increase in heavy drinking among men during this same time period. 

Kim Dude, Director of the University of Missouri Wellness Resource Center, said there are a few factors that can cause an increase in the amount of binge and heavy drinking. 

"One would be the environment in which people have access to alcohol. We live in an environment where alcohol is very inexpensive, especially in Columbia with the various drink specials that occur," Dude said.

Dude said other factors include how easy it is to attain alcohol, being in an environment that encourages excessive drinking through the media, and Missouri having a low alcohol tax.

Dude said there can be both short and long term effects with binge and heavy drinking, including alcohol poisoning, increasing the possibility of being a perpetrator or victim of sexual assault, and becoming an alcoholic. 

To decrease the amount of heavy and binge drinking among both men and women, Dude said people should eat before and during drinking as well as bringing a limited amount of money when going out for drinks. She also said another possible step would be to increase Missouri's alcohol tax.

"I think if we made alcohol more expensive, Missouri has the lowest alcohol tax in the entire country, and if we would raise the cost of that alcohol tax, it would not only decrease the amount of excessive drinking, but it would also create money that could be used for prevention efforts and for education," Dude said. 

Although the study showed an increase in binge and heavy drinking across the nation and Boone County, Dude said the number among students at MU has decreased from 51% in 2007 to currently 42%.

[Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct several misspellings.]