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Study: One-third of La Crosse County residents binge drink

LA CROSSE, Wis. - A new nationwide study shows one in eight women report binge drinking in 2011.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming four drinks in a sitting for women, five drinks for men.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study showed, on average, women who binge drank consumed six drinks in a sitting three times a month.

College-age women, aged 18-24, had the highest rate of binge drinking -- one in four.

One in five high school girls admitted to binge drinking.

The statistics for binge drinking in La Crosse County are even more staggering.

According to the Changing the Culture of Risky Drinking Behavior Coalition's 2012 report, Wisconsin ranks first in the nation for binge drinking and La Crosse County has one of the highest rates of it in the state.


It's a serious topic that's frequently treated in a not-so-serious way.

"There are Facebook pages, you know, 'Wisconsin: out-drinking your state since 1848,'" said Coulee Council on Addictions Executive Director Keith Lease.

According to the Changing the Culture of Risky Drinking Behavior Coalition's local report, as many as 35 percent of adults in La Crosse County binge drink.

"We consume a much greater amount of alcohol in one sitting than in other places. You go into a larger city or somewhere else and it's $5-$6 for a beer. We get outraged if hits $2.50," said Lease.

Why is binge drinking such a problem here? Lease said it's a combination of factors, from the area's history of breweries to the weather.

"It's much easier to tip back a beer and have a good time than it is to get creative and find ways to have fun out in the cold weather," said Lease.

The local study also showed 36 percent of La Crosse college students binge drink.

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Wellness Coordinator Jason Bertrand said part of the problem is most of the students he talks to have heard of binge drinking, but don't know what actually qualifies as binge drinking.

"That's one thing that I'm kind of surprised about, because it is such an issue on our campus and in our state," said Bertrand.

He said the first step toward fixing the problem is educating students about alcohol in a realistic way.

"We teach them how to drink responsibly. We don't teach them that drinking is the worst thing in the world. We know that a lot of our students drink, so we're going to try to do it as safe as possible," said Bertrand.

A big part of Bertrand's job at UW-L is what he calls "interventions," where he talks to students whose drinking habits are getting them into trouble. He does about 100 of those every year.

It's not just a problem for adults. One in five La Crosse County high school students admitted to binge drinking in the 2010 Youth Behavior Risk Survey.

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