KATC Investigates

May 15, 2013 9:12 AM by Elizabeth Hill

Lafayette parish ranks 2nd in Louisiana in binge drinking

Lafayette may be one of the healthiest parishes in the state, but with one big vice.

Lafayette ranks second in the state for binge drinking with a rate of 21%. That's second to St. James Parish at 25%. You may be surprised to find Orleans Parish all the way at number ten with a rate of 18% and East Baton Rouge's rate of 14% puts them at number 26.

This may not come as a shock to some in Acadiana, but is it something we should be concerned with?

Whether it's festivals, football, fishing or just a Louisiana Saturday night, chances are there's an ice chest stocked and a go-cup in hand.

"Socialize, go out and drink, no matter what you're doing," says Lafayette resident Gary Cruice.

"I love lafayette, it's home, I love the culture, I love the people, but we enjoy our fun," says CEO of Townsend Recovery Center Michael Handley.

That fun often means binge drinking.

"For an adult male, five drinks in a single sitting and for a woman, four drinks," says Townsend Medical Director Dr. Howard Wetsman.

According to the World Health Organization, that's when alcohol starts to cause physical damage to your body.

"I would think binge means a lot more than that and that its gotta go on for a while," says Cruice.

"In Louisiana we look at that like, that's a fun night out with my friends," says Handley.

Binge drinking is most prevalent among college students all over the country, but perhaps even more so in South Louisiana.

"You combine students with a taste of freedom for the first time in an environment that there's a party for everything and its commonly accepted," says Handley.

Alcohol abuse not only can lead to physical damage, but also external consequences like a DWI arrest or car crash. However, binging doesn't necessarily translate to addiction.

"Alcohol abuse among kids, you usually grow out of, but the disease of addiction, you don't," explains Wetsman.

Binge drinking is not exclusive to South Louisiana, but with traditions like Sunday brunch and drive-thru daquiri shops, it's perhaps the most recognizable.

"The rest of the country has learned a lot about drinking from Louisiana," says Wetsman.

"Anywhere in the United States that has a European influence you're going to see that kind of drinking is just part of what you do," says Cruice.

While there's been no research to prove it, Wetsman and Handley suggest the large population of offshore workers could have something to do with Lafayette's ranking. They point to the amount of down time many offshore workers have when they come home as being similar to that of a college student.

For more on these numbers or to view more statistics on health rankings for your parish, click here.

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