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Blackout Wednesday tradition promotes dangerous drinking habits (commentary)

Blackout Wednesday tradition promotes dangerous drinking habits (commentary)

San Antonio Report
By Vicki Thomas
November 22, 2022

Thanksgiving is a time for counting blessings and being around loved ones. It is also synonymous with Blackout Wednesday, also known as Drinksgiving.

Blackout Wednesday began as a college tradition to kickstart the long weekend break to celebrate with old friends before returning to school for finals. It is common for people to drink the Wednesday before Thanksgiving because most people have the next day off and don’t need to go to work or school.

Drinking has become a tradition that some young people see as an important part of their college experience. According to a survey from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, almost 55% of full-time college students ages 18-22 drank alcohol in the past month and about 37% engaged in binge drinking during that same time frame.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming five drinks or more on one occasion for males and four drinks or more for females. However, some college students drink at least twice that amount, a behavior that is often called high-intensity drinking. Unfortunately, binge and high-intensity drinking comes with consequences.

In many ways, Blackout Wednesday is a perfect storm of problematic drinking behaviors. Between justified binge drinking and bar promotions, the surge of overconsumption carries a variety of potentially dangerous consequences. These include normalizing binge drinking, contributing to problematic drinking habits and addiction, and putting driver safety at risk.

When it comes to drinking events like Blackout Wednesday, people rationalize that it’s appropriate to binge drink. People think that this type of drinking is OK since it’s not chronic, which minimizes its danger.

Binge drinking and addiction don’t automatically go hand in hand. But the more someone justifies problematic drinking, the easier it is to develop an alcohol use disorder later. Research shows that people who start drinking before the age of 15 are 5.6 times more likely to have an alcohol addiction later in life than those who waited until the age of 21 or later to begin drinking.

More people are out driving than usual during the holidays. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), from 2016 to 2020, 138 drivers involved in fatal crashes on Thanksgiving Eve were alcohol-impaired. Young people are particularly at risk: Drivers ages 21-24 represented the largest percentage (44%) of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes between 2016-2020 on Thanksgiving Eve.

If you have young people in your life, talk to them about drinking alcohol. If they are under the age of 21, make sure they understand that it is illegal for them to drink alcohol. Do not provide alcohol to your minor. Teach them that any alcohol is off limits to them and to their friends.

Instead, open your home up for a game, pizza, or movie night. Take your young people out to play mini-golf, to the movies, or bowling to provide them a fun and safe alternative to Blackout Wednesday. Provide your young adults and their friends with a space to hang out in an alcohol-free environment.

If you are over the age of 21, remember it is never OK to drink and drive. Even if you’ve had only one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or plan to use a ride service to get home safely. If you see a friend getting behind the wheel after drinking, take the keys away and find another way to get your friend home safely. If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact 911.

As we gather to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, let’s make safety a priority.