An article today about Virginia’s habitual drunkard law — the Legal Aid Justice Center wants federal courts to declare it unconstitutional — noted the extraordinary fact that there are 500,000 alcoholics in the state. The Richmond Times-Dispatch article did not cite a source, but the number is consistent with America’s Health Rankings data showing that 17.4% of Virginia adults report having had five or more drinks on one occasion within the last 30 days.
The good news, relatively speaking, is that the excessive drinking rate in Virginia is lower than the 19% rate nationally. The percentage of excessive drinkers ranges from a low of 12.2% in Utah to 29% … somehow I’m not surprised… in the District of Columbia.
No surprise here: Virginia men are more likely (21.1%) to engage in excessive drinking than women (13.9%), tracking national norms. Young people are more likely (24.8%) than middle-aged Virginians (13.4%) or seniors (5.7%) to binge.
City dwellers drink excessively more frequently than suburbanites, who guzzle more than rural dwellers. Whites drink more than blacks, a fact that might be tied to the fact that excessive alcohol consumption is correlated with income — higher-income people drink more than lower-income people, presumably because they can afford to.
Virginians have a lower rate of binge drinking despite the fact that median household incomes are higher in the Old Dominion than the national average. On the other hand, Virginians are slightly older than the national average, 38.2 years compared to 37.9. It would be interesting to know the age- and income-adjusted rate of alcoholism compared to other states. My sense is that such a calculation would show that Virginians partake less frequently of excessive alcoholic consumption.
That impression is confirmed by the statistic that measured by alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 population between 2006 and 2010, Virginia ranked 9th lowest among the 50 states and District of Columbia.
Are we doing something right in the public policy arena? And if so, what is it?
Does Virginia have stricter drunk-driving laws, and does that influence alcohol consumption? How about laws — and enforcement of those laws — on under-age drinking? How about the availability of alcohol rehab centers? And what about that law aimed at habitual drunkards?
In our therapeutic society, many now tend to think of alcoholism as a disease, not a character flaw. (Personally, I align with the Alcoholics Anonymous view that drinking is a choice, although alcoholism is also a progressive disease that makes it harder over time to make the choice to be sober.) Alcoholics are more likely to be pitied today than stigmatized — except when they drive. How do social attitudes, including the willingness to seek treatment, affect drinking behavior?
Finally, let us not forget in all the furor over opioid addiction that alcohol-related deaths nationally exceeded opioid-related deaths by 40% last year.There are currently no comments highlighted.