Binge drinking is a big problem. But a new study indicates one possible remedy could be legal weed. In fact, the states that legalized cannabis appear to show a decrease in binge drinking among students. Let’s dive into what binge drinking actually is, and some reasons why cannabis might have changed the numbers on the ground.
First, binge drinking is considered a “pattern of drinking” that raises one’s blood alcohol concentration to .08 grams percent or above. Five drinks or more will do that for men, and four for women, all consumed within a couple of hours. So, yeah, that’s slamming almost half a dozen beers in less than the running time of Avengers Infinity War. Interestingly, the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines these parameters but notes that this level of drinking doesn’t mean someone is actually dependent on booze. In other words, you could binge drink on Fridays, but not drink the rest of the week.
How many people binge drink? According to numbers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it’s around 1 in 6 adults. The largest number of binge drinkers happen to be between 18 and 34 years old. But this type of drinking is most common among men, with young men being twice as likely to binge drink as women.
The study in Addictive Behaviors used survey data from over a million participants and found a drop in binge drinking among college kids of around 6% in states where cannabis had been legalized. The survey contains data from 2008 to 2018, and paints a pretty clear picture that increasing availability of cannabis leads to lower instances of binge drinking. Researchers expect to see a similar shift in Canada, where drinking is also an issue — but the country is still ramping up the availability of cannabis in areas outside major cities.
Why does increased cannabis availability lower the rate of binge drinking? The study points to those 21 and up basically taking up pot rather than further drinking. It makes sense, really. While alcohol might now be legal for you at 21, so is weed. If you’re looking to get high, it’s a lot safer and less damaging to your body to try cannabis. The problem, for now, is availability. Scientists have a term, RML, or recreational marijuana legalization, to indicate places where weed has been made legal. They tracked RML and binge drinking rates to discover all of these insights. What will be interesting is to see if binge drinking continues to drop as RML spreads across the country. It’s only logical to presume it will, and given the health outcomes from binge drinking — it’s all bad — it could only benefit society.