Oct 24, 2022 - News

Iowans are above average binge drinkers

Illustration of a sad man sitting inside of an empty beer bottle.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Years after the pandemic sparked excessive drinking nationwide, Iowans are still suffering from higher than average amounts of binge drinking in comparison to the rest of the country, according to the state's October drug trends report.

Why it matters: While any drinking can create risks, binge drinking is linked with compromised immune systems, chronic disease and riskier behaviors.

State of play: Iowans and Midwesterns in general drink more than the rest of the country.

  • While our illicit drug use is low, 39th nationwide, we're second in the U.S. for excessive drinking, according to a 2021 report by America's Health Rankings.
  • Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska also suffer from excessive drinking.

Flashback: Drinking has been historically prevalent in the Midwest, but the specific reasons why are unknown, other than it's a "cultural phenomenon," Dale Woolery, director of the Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy, told Axios.

  • A 2008 Minnesota Public Radio story reports that people in rural areas are more likely to drink excessively. It's also more normal to drink at younger ages in the Midwest.
  • A 2016 CBS News story speculates it has something to do with the colder weather, Irish and German ancestry of the region or possibly that there's simply less to do.

Yes, but: We're in an even worse situation now since the pandemic exacerbated everything and it's only continued two years later, Woolery said.

  • Iowa liquor sales went up 8% from FY 2019 to 2020. But it jumped by 13% between FY 2020 to 2021, according to state records.
  • Alcohol-related deaths in Iowa hit a record 827 people in 2021 — nearly double 440 Iowans back in 2011.

What they're saying: Substance use treatment works. A 2020 Iowa report shows that after six months of treatment, only 45% of people still used alcohol.

  • But many people are hesitant to get help by themselves or recognize there's a problem.
  • For men, consuming more than four drinks a day or more than 14 drinks per week is considered excessive. For women, it's three drinks a day or more than seven drinks per week.

How to get help: The new 988 line is there to help anyone with a crisis or YourLife Iowa provides addiction support.


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