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St. Patrick’s Binge Drinking Risks

Pub crawls, green booze and binging put you at risk for hazards like falls, assaults, alcohol poisoning and hypothermia


Ads featuring leprechauns, four-leaf clovers and mugs of green beer are out in full force promoting pub crawls and other St. Patrick’s Day events, all aimed at encouraging people to drink early and often. While you might share an Irish toast with your friends (“sláinte” or “health”), there’s nothing healthy about the near-mythical boozing that’s become associated with the Irish holiday.

“Drinking enough alcohol to get drunk quickly is considered binge drinking,” says emergency room physician Andrew Miller, DO, Medical Director, Emergency Room at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest, and Chief, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, at Lehigh Valley Health Network. “For a man, that means drinking five or more drinks on a single occasion, or a woman drinking four or more drinks on a single occasion.”

Binge risks

Drinking that much alcohol within a short period of time puts you at risk for a number of issues. “Your balance becomes impaired, so that puts you at increased risk for falling. Alcohol lowers your body temperature, so this time of year, excess drinking puts you at risk for hypothermia. And when you over-consume alcohol, you are certainly at risk for alcohol poisoning (also known as alcohol overdose) which places your blood alcohol concentration above .08 percent,” Dr. Miller says.

Because reasoning and mental concentration are among the first executive functions affected by alcohol consumption, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says binge drinking increases the chances you could be involved in a car crash, either as a passenger or driver. You may also be at higher risk for physical or sexual assault.

Did you know?

Pub crawls, green booze and binging put you at risk for hazards like falls, assaults, alcohol poisoning and hypothermia.

It’s also critical to keep an eye on children who may be enticed to try alcohol. “Alcohol consumption in a child is never OK,” Dr. Miller says. “Even small amounts of alcohol consumption in young children can lead to low sugars, low temperatures, seizures, coma, and even death. Be careful to keep alcohol out of their reach.”

Improve your luck

Instead of falling for pub crawl mentality, choose a healthier St. Paddy’s Day plan.

  • Enjoy a toast with your friends but then stick to water.
  • Make sure if you drink alcohol that you also eat to slow absorption of alcohol.
  • Know when it’s time to stop drinking.
  • Opt to be the designated driver for your friends and only drink water, soda or other no-alcohol beverages.

Need help?

If you are with someone who has consumed alcohol to excess, seek emergency help. “People who are that intoxicated can asphyxiate on vomit,” Dr. Miller says. If the concern is more about alcohol dependence, have an honest discussion with your doctor. “Your primary care physician or clinician can help determine if you have a drinking problem and then help you find the right help,” he says.

Do you need a primary care physician?

Call 888-402-LVHN (5846) or

Find one here

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