Original Source: Health Day

Strong enforcement of alcohol-control policies may prevent
many drinking-related problems

TUESDAY, Dec. 10, 2013 (HealthDay News) — Strong state
alcohol control policies make a difference in efforts to help prevent binge
drinking, a new study finds.

Binge drinking — generally defined as having more than four
to five alcoholic drinks in a two-hour period — is responsible for more than
half of the 80,000 alcohol-related deaths in the United States each year.

“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, an associate professor of
medicine at Boston University Schools of Medicine and attending physician at
Boston Medical Center (BMC), said in a BMC news release.

Naimi and his colleagues gave scores to states based on
their implementation of 29 alcohol control policies. States with higher policy
scores were one-fourth as likely as those with lower scores to have binge
drinking rates in the top 25 percent of states.

This was true even after the researchers accounted for a
variety of factors associated with alcohol consumption, such as age, sex, race,
income, geographic region, urban-rural differences, and levels of police and
alcohol enforcement personnel.

Alcohol policy scores varied by as much as threefold between
states, the investigators found. And nearly half of the states had less than 50
percent of the maximum score in any particular year from 2000 to 2010. In
addition, the study authors noted, binge drinking rates were 33 percent higher
in states in the bottom quarter than those in the top quarter of policy scores.

The study is published in the current issue of theĀ American
Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“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.

“The bottom line is that this study adds an important
dimension to a large body of research demonstrating that alcohol policies
matter — and matter a great deal — for reducing and preventing the
fundamental building block of alcohol-related problems,” he concluded.