Alas, Wisconsin: the drunkest state in America.
Alcohol is a large part of Wisconsin culture, but costs and consequences are starting to take their toll on the economy and the home. Binge drinking and other excessive uses of alcohol are at the heart of this problem.
Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks on one occasion for males and four or more drinks for females. With excessive drinking the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the US, heavy-drinkin Wisconsin is a great place to start looking at the real world effects.
According to americashealthrankings.org, for 11 out of the past 15 years, Wisconsin has been in the 22-27% range regarding citizens who regularly binge drink. To put this in perspective, Wisconsin was the only state in this percent range until 2012.
If it is established that Wisconsin has a significant drinking problem, what can we do with this information? How does this cause other problems?
Alcohol consumption not only causes health problems for the individual, but a wide range of problems for the community as well.
The annual economic cost of excessive alcohol consumption in Wisconsin is approximately $6.8 billion.
The greatest drain on Wisconsin’s economy due to alcohol comes from loss of productivity at work. An estimated $2.9 billion is lost each year due to decreased employee productivity and premature death resulting from excessive alcohol consumption.
Health issues cost the state nearly $749 million, regarding issues of special treatment for excessive drinking and diseases that stem from it. $649 million is attributed to resolving alcohol-related crimes like drunk driving and assault/battery, as well as sexual assault. Other expenses come from alcohol-related incident prevention and legislative measures to decrease these numbers.
Alcohol, of course, takes its toll on the drinker as well. Alcoholism has many grave long-term effects like nerve damage, permanent brain damage that can lead to diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s, family and relationship problems, and the most permanent of them all: death.
One extreme example of alcohol’s effect on the brain is in a disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. People who drink excessively are plagued with a thiamine (or Vitamin B1) deficiency, which can lead to this syndrome. WKS can have harsh symptoms, such as confusion, paralysis, and difficulty with muscle coordination.
Patients who have Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome have often been noted, by their caretakers, to have been unable to find their way out of a room. Of course, this syndrome is a few of the worst possible scenarios that can come from drinking in excess; however, alcohol abuse can lead to many more health issues that are easy to acquire.
Wisconsinites often like to jest and take pride in their drinking abilities and the stigma that comes with it. Wisconsin’s always present German, beer-loving, Schnapps-devouring culture plays a large role in this behavior. Although this can be fun to laugh at, it poses a serious problem, not only for the casual binge drinker, but for the state and economy as well.
Many legislators are trying to pass laws that will raise taxes on alcohol in order to reduce consumption, as well as similar restrictive laws that will attempt to curb our insatiable appetite for the sweet fermented nectar of the gods.