Binge Drinking Because You're Bored?

Boredom may be to blame for a growing trend in binge drinking in western states like Wyoming, Montana and North and South Dakota, according to an article in the New York Times.

South-central Wyoming has the highest binge-drinking rate in the U.S., according to researchers, with 30 percent of residents age 12 and older being classified as binge drinkers in Albany and Carbon counties.

Adolescents and adults in these areas may be drawn to binge drinking because there's nothing else to do, especially in winter. "I think so many kids drink because the state is barren, desolate and boring to some people, and there is not really anything to do," said one resident.
Residents also describe feeling entitled to a drink after a day's work, even if it means drinking excessively. "We're a frontier culture, and people say, 'I work hard and I'll be damned if I'm not going to have a beer or two on the way home,'" said Montana state lawmaker and addiction expert Rosie Buzzas.

Like many areas, access to alcohol is abundant and parents generally don't take a strong stand against teen drinking. Local laws regarding alcohol use are similarly relaxed. For example, Wyoming does not prohibit passengers in a car from drinking, and teens caught drinking underage don't usually lose their driver's licenses.

Addiction counselors suggest that binge drinking may be part of the macho youth culture of the West. It is not unusual in these areas for children to start drinking as early as age 5. A "late bloomer" may hold off until age 15 for their first drink.  Younger children, especially girls, often start out drinking "alcopops" or energy drinks mixed with alcohol because they want to get drunk but don't like the taste of alcohol.

The binge drinking problem in rural communities may best be solved by helping youth get involved in extracurricular activities and challenging them in school.

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