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Excessive drinking is hurting Wisconsin communities, according to Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project

Alcoholic drinks
G. Lombardo
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Alcohol plays a big role in Wisconsin culture, but that relationship with alcohol can be unhealthy.

Alcohol plays a big role in Wisconsin culture, but that relationship with alcohol can be unhealthy. The state has the highest rate of binge drinking in the nation, including 7 of the top 10 drunkest metropolitan areas, according to analysis of excessive drinking rates from 24/7 Wall Street.

Michael Waraksa for Milwaukee Magazine

But there are efforts to change that and improve the health and quality of life of communities throughout the state. Maureen Busalacchi is the director of the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project at the Medical College, which was featured in this month’s Milwaukee Magazine article, "Does Wisconsin Have a Drinking Problem?" She says that while the problem of excessive drinking is often blamed on alcoholism, that's just a small part of the overall problem.

"Binge drinking makes up about 75% of the harm that alcohol plays in our society. Not all binge drinkers, or even most binge drinkers, have an alcohol-use disorder... The CDC estimates that 89% of people who binge drink do not have an alcohol-use disorder," explains Busalacchi.

Heavy drinking in Wisconsin is a normal part of the culture in many parts of the state and in every county rates of binge-drinking far outpace the national average. Busalacchi says that while it can be difficult to overcome that culture, there are some material changes that could help.

"It's really just making sure people aren't being over-served. It's really deciding what message we want to send our kids in our community about the use of alcohol in open spaces... Some communities are looking at parks as alcohol-free spaces. There's a lot that's going on to kind of bring our culture back to a more normal level because we've let it sort of creep in and suddenly it seems like it's part of everything," says Busalacchi.

By decreasing the number of places where people can buy alcohol and holding public events where alcohol isn't made available, Busalacchi says we can begin to change that culture.


Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
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