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St. Patrick's Day Drinking: Facts, Hangovers, and Advice

To stay sober, ask for a glass of water instead of yet another green beer.

Wiki Commons
Source: Wiki Commons

Stories say that St. Patrick rid Ireland of snakes, which is disputed by National Geographic. Perhaps this is the reason he has had no luck when it comes to clamping down on the binge drinking problems associated with St. Patrick’s Day. Fortunately colleges are organizing campaigns and highway patrols will be out in full force this week-end. Additionally, friends, lovers, family and lots of water may be your best "moderation" allies.

Binge drinking is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol (BAC) concentration to 0.08 grams percent or above. For men this typically occurs after five or more drinks in about two hours; whereas for women it is about four drinks in two hours. While the report points out that most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent, here are some sobering facts:

  • One in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about eight drinks per binge.
  • While binge drinking is more common among young adults aged 18–34 years, binge drinkers aged 65 years and older report binge drinking more often—an average of five to six times a month.
  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) says that more than 1,800 college student deaths a year, mostly from drunken driving can be attributed to binge drinking.

Some common sense tips can help keep you safe include:

* Be aware of the danger on the road: Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers. Alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes kill someone every 31 minutes and non-fatally injure someone every two minutes says the CDC binge drinking fact sheet.

* Know your limits and pal-up with a non-drinking friend.

* Make a plan: “Be certain that there is always a designed driver in your party and try to have fun and conversations with non-drinkers,” says Diana Limoncelli, project coordinator in alcohol research at Yale.

* Be wary of too-good-to-be true suggestions such as taking yeast and drinking all night.

A physician comments of beer drinking advice

An Esquire magazine article noted that Jim Koch, co-founder and chairman of the Boston Beer Company calls yeast the secret to drinking beer all night without getting drunk. To gain some perspective, at the time I talked with Peter D. Friedmann, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine and Health Services, Policy and Practice at the Warren Alpert Medical School and School of Public Health at Brown University. He pointed out the following:

“Even Snopes [dot] com – the go-to site for urban legends – questioned this from “the television commercial beer guy for Sam Adams.”

Should you decide to try yeast despite the lack of an evidence-based report, talk to any nursing mother who took yeast in tablet or power form to increase her milk supply about the whole smelly truth of yeast flatulence.

What is the best solution for staying sober? Ask for a glass of water instead of another green beer.

What about those hangovers?

As for the St. Patrick’s Day hangover -- the combination of caffeine and aspirin or ibuprofen still offer the best relief for pounding headaches, according to researcher Michael L. Oshinsky, PhD, director of preclinical research and assistant professor of neurology at the Jefferson Headache Center.

He explained to me that “a person who expects to get a hangover headache may take aspirin or ibuprofen with water after finishing drinking alcohol and a caffeinated drink the next morning.

As for what to do about hangover nausea --nin many ways the words of my grandmother ring true: “That’s what you get from drinking too much.”


CDC. Vital signs: binge drinking prevalence, frequency, and intensity among adults—U.S., 2010. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2012; 61(1):14 –9.

Esquire: How to drink all night and not get drunk (You may also wish to read Esquire's follow-up report.)

Copyright 2015 Rita Watson

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