Risky drinking in Maryland is on the rise. In recent years, binge drinking has increased substantially. While binge drinking is more common among men, women are beginning to drink in larger quantities and shorter durations. The number of Maryland women who binge drink increased 34.7 percent between 2005 and 2012. Heavy drinking in Maryland is also on the rise, increasing 25.7 percent between 2005 and 2012.
Thousands of Marylanders have sought treatment for alcohol misuse.
In 2015, nearly 15,000 Marylanders sought treatment for alcohol misuse or misusing alcohol with another drug. People in treatment for alcohol use accounted 13.1 percent of those who sought treatment in Maryland. More Marylanders sought treatment for alcohol misuse that year than for cocaine, marijuana, and amphetamines combined.
More importantly, deaths related to drinking are increasing. In 2016, according to SAMHSA, 582 Marylanders had significant amounts of alcohol in their system when they died unexpectedly. That’s almost double the number of Marylanders who died from alcohol-related causes in 2015. Such statistics are part of a larger trend: the number of alcohol-related deaths in Maryland has increased every year since 2010.
Indeed, deaths from intoxication have increased at an alarming rate in Maryland. Data from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene shows they’ve more than tripled since 2010. When Marylanders use illegal drugs, they sometimes use alcohol in dangerous amounts with them. Alcohol can add another element of danger to potentially fatal chemical mixes.
According to the CDC, heavy drinking in Baltimore is concentrated in central neighborhoods located near downtown and the Inner Harbor. On the whole, about 17 percent of Baltimore residents report binge drinking or heavy drinking.
In 2015, more than 300,000 students were enrolled in Maryland colleges and universities. Young people in Maryland drink more compared with their peers in the rest of the United States.
In Maryland colleges during 2014, student drinking became such a pressing issue that the state required higher education leaders to come up with an action plan to reduce dangerous drinking behaviors.
Other signs of problems exist. In 2013, the Maryland Collaborative to Reduce College Drinking and Related Problems released a report that revealed that 19 percent of college students under 21, and 22 percent of 21- to 24-year-old college students, in the state “met criteria for either alcohol abuse or dependence.” But dangerous drinking at Maryland colleges isn’t limited to that group. According to the 2014 Maryland College Alcohol Survey, which collected data from more than 4,200 full-time undergraduates, nearly half of Maryland’s undergraduates engaged in binge drinking in 2014.
That heavy drinking had significant effects on the students who did it. In 2014, the report showed, 23.9 percent of Maryland college students reported that their drinking made their academic performance worse. More than 33 percent of students said that they had blacked out at some point in the last year, and more than 20 percent of Maryland college students said that in the past year, they had ridden in a car driven by someone who had been drinking.
But the negative effects of heavy college drinking aren’t limited to students who drink. In 2014, more than half of Maryland college students said that their sleep was disrupted by fellow students who had been drinking. More than 40 percent of students reported that those who had been drinking interrupted them while studying.
Students who have been drinking may also act violently toward fellow students. The survey showed that 2.3 percent of respondents reported sexual assault, 15.1 percent reported sexual harassment, 21.8 percent reported verbal harassment, 7.1 percent reported physical assault, and 12.3 percent reported property damage by other students who had been drinking.
In 2013, Maryland saw 138 fatal impaired driving crashes. In addition, 2,351 of that year’s 7,321 impaired driving collisions caused bodily injury.
The majority of impaired driving crashes happened in the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas. The Baltimore area had the largest share of impaired driving crashes by far, with 47.3 percent of the total.
Unfortunately, Maryland’s young people are too often the impaired drivers behind the wheel. From 2011 to 2015, Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration reported, 11 percent of drivers aged 16 to 20 who were killed in an automobile collision were driving under the influence. In 2015, 19 percent of underage Marylanders reported riding in an impaired driver’s car, and 10 percent of underage drivers reported driving within two hours of drinking alcohol themselves.
Because of this problem, Maryland has significant penalties for drinking and driving. Any driver who is breathalyzed and found to be above the legal limit automatically has their license suspended. If they’re convicted of a DUI, they could be fined, imprisoned for up to a year, and could be subject to drug testing or other consequences.
Drinking and driving is part of a troubling statewide trend. Heavy drinking has serious consequences for those who do it and can badly affect the lives of the people who are unlucky enough to be near it.
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