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By David R. Shorey, San Diego County Program Director, Institute for Public Strategies
June 12, 2024 (San Diego) --The San Diego County Binge and Underage Drinking Initiative (BUDI) released a comprehensive report shedding light on the alarming trends of alcohol consumption in the community. Binge drinking and underage drinking are pervasive issues. 

Binge drinking is consuming five or more drinks on an occasion for men or four or more drinks for women. It is a prevalent and costly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the U.S. Nationally, one in six adults report binge drinking, with a quarter of them doing so weekly. In California, 19% of adults admitted to binge drinking in the past month, with San Diego County surpassing that figure at 21%. Despite common misconceptions, most binge drinkers are not alcohol-dependent. However, the consequences of binge drinking are severe, contributing to injuries, chronic diseases, and a higher risk of developing alcohol use disorders. The San Diego BUDI Drinking Report underscores the urgency of addressing this harmful behavior that affects a significant portion of our adult population.
Underage drinking poses a grave public health challenge, linked to more than 3,900 deaths and 225,000 years of potential life lost annually among those under 21 in the United States. Peer influence and parental behavior play critical roles in shaping youth drinking habits. A 5% increase in adult binge drinking in a community correlates with a 12% rise in underage drinking within the same area. In 2022, 8.8% of teens in San Diego County reported binge drinking in the past month, while 25.6% had consumed alcohol at some point. These rates are higher than the state averages, highlighting a pressing issue within our local youth population. Despite a decline in the overall percentage of teens who have ever consumed alcohol since 2019, the current figures still demand robust preventative measures.
The report also draws attention to the dangerous intersection of drinking and driving. From 2018 to 2022, the percentage of motor vehicle collisions involving a drinking driver in San Diego County surged by 34.9%. Particularly concerning is the 46.1% increase in underage drinking drivers involved in these incidents. In 2022, 86% of drivers involved in alcohol-related crashes were found at fault, with a stark disparity in outcomes. Injuries were far more common than fatalities.
Medical encounters with alcohol poisoning present another critical concern. Although the rates of such incidents have decreased from 2017 to 2021, they remain high. Adults over 21 are significantly more likely to experience alcohol poisoning, with emergency department discharges being three times higher than those for underage drinkers. The BUDI emphasizes the necessity of a strategic, multi-agency approach to combat these issues. By promoting safe and healthy behaviors and addressing the root causes of substance misuse, the initiative aims to reduce alcohol-related harms across San Diego County.
Community-based and environmental strategies are essential in this endeavor. These include educational programs, stricter enforcement of underage drinking laws, and initiatives that foster healthier social norms. The goal is to create a community free from the detrimental impacts of excessive alcohol consumption. 
The BUDI is reimagining our communities… free from alcohol-related harms. It’s part of a comprehensive countywide prevention system that utilizes community-based, environmental strategies to address the underlying causes of substance misuse and substance use disorders. The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency’s Behavioral Health Services provides funding.
The findings of the 2023 Drinking Report are a call to action. While progress is evident in some areas, the persistent and pervasive nature of binge and underage drinking requires a continued and concerted effort from all community stakeholders. Through collaborative prevention strategies and a commitment to healthier environments, San Diego County can make significant strides toward mitigating the harms associated with excessive alcohol use.
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Kudos to you Johnathan. Getting clean and sober can certainly be a challenge, yet is something that can be accomplished. Be proud of yourself and hold your head up! I quit drugs - marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, around 43 years ago - cold turkey. Was self medicating due to various reasons, and I enjoyed the partying. Moving forward, I managed to quit smoking cigarettes about 24 years ago. Not an easy task, yet I'm much healthier now and not watching my money go up in smoke. This, in my opinion is truly Clean and Sober, because Nicotine is considered a drug. Live in the moment, yet plan for tomorrow.

Alcoholism and addiction

Such an important issue; I just got my 6 months clean keytag a couple weeks ago. I made a decision to be happy and content without the use of drugs or alcohol, work an honest program and worry about myself instead of others, found a sponsor and called him if I felt like picking up, and it's improved my life tremendously! I used to spend half the time wanting to die and the other half of the time thinking I was God's gift to humankind, but now between stable housing, psych meds and abstinence from drugs and alcohol I've found a happy medium and am finally content with just me, not looking to drugs, alcohol, "stuff" or the "next big thing" to make me happy and am just grateful for what I have without being boastful, and now I can face tomorrow, one day at a time.