Wisconsin consistently ranks high in binge drinking - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Wisconsin consistently ranks high in binge drinking

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - The state of Wisconsin consistently ranks highest in the nation when it comes to binge drinking. La Crosse County ranks 51 out of 73 counties for highest binge drinking rates, according to the La Crosse Medical Health Science Consortium. Drinking alters your state of consciousness, it can cause harm to yourself and make you cause harm to others. That's one reason why area officials started the Risky Drinking Behavior Coalition, to change the drinking culture.

Keith Lease, Executive Director of Coulee Council on Addictions, started drinking in 7th grade. He didn't drink everyday, he didn't go through withdraws, so he didn't think he was addicted.

Lease had his first drink with his brother, he said the place where most people try alcohol for the first time is in their own home.

Brenda Rooney, a Clinical Epidemiologist with Gundersen Health System said, "Alcohol is part of our culture."

Wisconsin has a long drinking history, from breweries to bars. Rooney said the coalition looks "at it from two perspectives, one is from youth and where they're getting alcohol the other is where risky alcohol use is occurring."

Rooney does research for the Risky Drinking Behavior Coalition, she said a reason our state ranks so high in binge drinking, is because of the drinking culture.

Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks for men, and four or more drinks for women in one sitting.

Rooney said in the last month almost 60% of adults younger than 25 reported binge drinking.  For those older than 25, it was 40%.

"Certainly not just a college or high school behavior it goes beyond that," said Rooney.

Lease and Rooney say a proactive approach is the best way, Lease explains it as "Changing that mindset so having a couple drinks socially is what you want to do, not 'hey I can drink a 24 pack without throwing up'."Changing our culture is the first step, that's why the coalition has implemented things the the social host ordinance in Onalaska and La Crosse.

As Executive Director of Coulee Council on Addictions, Lease is at the forefront of the changes.

He's been clean now for eight years and hopes he can protect others from going through what he went through. To find out more about the Risky Drinking Behavior Coalition visit their website.

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