Political Drinking Game Dangers Are All Too Real

Everyone from Time Magazine to Rolling Stone is getting in on the action, but using politics as an excuse to overindulge isn’t fun for those who suffer serious side effects.

The presidential debates are just the beginning. As election season gets into full swing, news coverage will kick into high gear. All the political doubletalk and party-centric hyperbole is enough to drive sane people to drink. And that’s just what many people are doing – in the form of political party games – as they watch the candidates share their platforms and answer often inane questions.

The political frustration is understandable, but it’s never an excuse to overindulge. In fact, it can be downright dangerous. This was pointed out in a satirical piece on RawStory.com titled, “Health Officials Warn You Could Die Playing GOP Debate Drinking Games: It’s Just a Recipe for Disaster.”1 The author even goes so far as to share a questionable quote from Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, ostensibly warning the public during a press conference, “You simply can’t drink every time one of these guys says something silly.” According to the RawStory.com article, Murthy then suggests that people play a safer variation of the traditional debate drinking game by only consuming alcohol “when one of the candidates says something reasonable.”

While the article was tongue-in-cheek, the warning in the title was a worthy one.

It turns out that the author was riffing on a popular theme during an election season. You only have to do a quick Internet search to see that political drinking games are nothing new and quite popular. Tumblr is full of them, The Huffington Post published a State of the Union drinking game and even Time Magazine got in on the action this year, printing their own drinking game for the first Fox News republican debate. You can also go right to the source, the website debatedrinking.com, which actually warns, “know your limits and please drink responsibly.” Each article or website offers a wide range of suggestions for when and what constitutes a reason to take a shot or down a drink during a debate or political speech.

In a Rolling Stone article that outlined what the magazine called, “The Official GOP Debate Drinking Game Rules,” the author suggested that participants drink the first time Donald Trump mentions his wealth or how smart he is, a candidate mentions Benghazi, the crowd cheers a racist/bigoted statement by a candidate or a candidate mentions his poor/hardscrabble upbringing, among other things. Then participants are also urged to drink every time a candidate claims a positive relationship with a minority, tries to speak Spanish or says, “you can keep your doctor,” “the war on Christians” or “right here in Ohio.” And finally, a shot of Jager is a must for any mention of “All Lives Matter.”2

What’s the big deal, it’s just fun and games, right? American elections have become so overwhelming that many argue we have to laugh or we’ll cry.

The political process can be stressful, but using politics – or any other excuse – to drink to excess is no laughing matter. According to a Centers for Disease Control study, one in six U.S. adults binge drink about four times a month, consuming approximately eight drinks per binge, and more than half of the alcohol consumed by adults in the United States is in the form of binge drinks. Binge drinking is associated with many health problems, including alcohol poisoning, high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, neurological damage and sexual dysfunction.3

It’s also not good for the American economy. Drinking too much, including binge drinking, costs the United States $249 billion in 2010, or $2.05 a drink, from losses in productivity, health care, crime and other expenses. Binge drinking was responsible for 77 percent of these costs, or $191 billion, according to the CDC.3

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume five or more drinks, and when women consume four or more drinks, in about two hours.3 For reference, a “unit” of alcohol typically equals around 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.1 It’s also important to note that you don’t have to have an alcohol addiction or meet the criteria for alcoholism to be a binge drinker. In fact, most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent.3

So just say “no” to turning the 2016 presidential election into an excuse for you or your friends to drink too much. And if you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction and needs help, call us today. We’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can provide information on treatment programs, help with insurance and answer questions about the treatment process.

1. Health Officials Warn You Could Die Playing GOP Debate Drinking Games; RawStory.com; August 2015; Holland, Joshua; http://www.rawstory.com/2015/08/health-officials-warn-that-you-could-die-playing-gop-debate-drinking-games-its-a-formula-for-disaster/
2. The Official GOP Drinking Game Rules; RollingStone.com; August 2015; Taibbi, Matt; http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-official-gop-debate-drinking-game-rules-20150805
3. Fact Sheets: Binge Drinking; Centers for Disease Control; http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm

Written by Wendy Lee Nentwig

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