A new study by the U.S. surgeon general calls alcohol abuse a public health crisis.
The report finds binge drinking costs billions of dollars in lost productivity, health care, and law enforcement.
Diane Riibe, interim executive director of Project Extra Mile in Omaha, says easy access to alcohol is a problem that needs to change.
“Essentially making alcohol less available, certainly not prohibition, but certainly less available in a way that’s appropriate and looks at public health impact as well as the public safety impact,” Riibe tells Nebraska Radio Network.
That means increasing taxes on alcohol, examining the hours and days of alcohol sales, and decreasing the density of places that sell alcohol.
“So it really is wise and incumbent upon communities and states to look at how they place those outlets,” Riibe says. “Certainly it’s not going to get rid of those, but it’s going to increase the likelihood that public health and safety would be of importance.”
While DUI deaths are a well-known problem, Riibe says binge drinking causes a lot of harm, especially for teens and young adults.
“We say, ‘Well, at least they’re drinking someplace. They have a safe ride home.’ That is just absolutely missing the mark,” Riibe says. “There are so many sexual assaults – either perpetrators or victims – in those moments. Certainly, poor school behavior, assaults, all sorts of negative harm that happens.”
A recent report by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services found 20.3 percent of Nebraska adults reported binge drinking during a 30 day period in 2014, which is above the national average. At the same time, Nebraska high school students reported lower binge drinking rates than their national counterparts.