States with stronger alcohol control policies have lower rates of binge drinking than states with weaker policies, a new study concludes.
Researchers gave scores to states based on how they implemented 29 alcohol control policies, HealthDay reports. States that had higher policy scores were one-fourth as likely to have a binge drinking rate in the top 25 percent of states, compared with states with lower scores. Binge drinking rates were 33 percent higher in states in the bottom quarter than those in the top quarter of policy scores.
States with larger increases in policies had larger decreases in binge drinking over time, the study found. Binge drinking is responsible for more than half of the 80,000 alcohol-related deaths in the United States annually, the article notes. It is generally defined as having more than four to five alcoholic drinks in a two-hour period.
“If alcohol policies were a newly discovered gene, pill or vaccine, we’d be investing billions of dollars to bring them to market,” study senior author Dr. Tim Naimi, Associate Professor of Medicine at Boston University Schools of Medicine and attending physician at Boston Medical Center, said in a news release.
The researchers report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that alcohol policy scores varied by as much as threefold between states. “Unfortunately, most states have not taken advantage of these policies to help drinkers consume responsibly, and to protect innocent citizens from the devastating secondhand effects and economic costs from excessive drinking,” Naimi said.
While previous studies have investigated the effect of individual alcohol policies, the researchers said this is the first study to look at the effect of the overall alcohol policy environment.