St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of everything Irish. People and places dress in green, restaurants sell themed drinks and snacks and parades float down major city streets. Unfortunately, this March holiday is almost synonymous with binge drinking, the most costly and lethal type of alcohol use in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sadly, binge drinking often leads to poor decisions, like driving after one too many green beers.
St. Patrick’s Day Drinking Stats
Binge drinking on St. Patrick’s Day has dangerous and painful consequences for the families affected by it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2018 data showed:
- Every 30 minutes on average, someone dies because of an alcohol-related car crash on St. Patrick’s Day.
- 62%of fatal St. Patrick’s Day car crashes involved a drunk driver
- 33% of pedestrianskilled in car crashes over the holiday were intoxicated with a blood-alcohol level over 0.08
Binge drinking on St. Patrick’s Day takes its toll even if people aren’t behind the wheel:
- St. Patrick’s Day is the biggest day of the year where high school & college students are introduced to binge drinking, according to one Brown University study.
- American revelers spend an average of $43 per person on St. Patrick’s Day, with 40% spent on drinks alone.
- Binge drinking cost the United States $191 billion in 2010 because of losses in workplace productivity, health care expenditures, criminal justice costs and related expenses.
- Binge drinking has short- and long-term effects on your health, even if you don’t do it regularly.
Why Do People Binge Drink on St. Patrick’s Day?
St. Patrick’s Day falls during the Christian observance of Lent, a time devoted to penitence and abstinence from indulgent pleasures like unhealthy foods or drinks. St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was a Christian missionary and priest beloved by generations of Irish citizens. Honoring the anniversary of his death, St. Patrick’s Day is one where it is acceptable to break with Lenten restrictions and indulge — often in excess.
Even if you’re not observing Lent, it can be difficult to avoid the avalanche of advertising and social pressures around drinking on March 17. Green-themed drinks, special events at bars and drinking stories may be all your friends and coworkers want to talk about leading up to the day. It’s important to remember that St. Patrick’s Day celebrates Irish culture and heritage, not binge drinking.
Tips to Enjoy St. Patrick’s Day Safely
If you’re in recovery from alcoholism or want to avoid alcohol:
- Enlist support. People you trust can help keep you safe and accountable to your goal.
- Celebrate sober. Enjoy an irish meal, watch an irish film, attend a sober party or host your own.
- Have a mocktail ready. Having non-alcoholic St. Patrick’s Day drinks with you can help curb temptation.
If you decide to drink on St. Patrick’s Day, make sure to:
- Appoint a designated driver. Use a ride-sharing app, taxi or sober friend to get home.
- Pace yourself. Avoid drinking games and shots. Stick to one standard alcoholic beverage per hour with non-alcoholic drinks in between.
- Set a limit. Have a number of drinks or spending amount decided before you go. Purchasing a small gift card to use for the evening can help signal you to stop.
- Eat & stay hydrated. Having food and a steady flow of water in your system helps your body deal with alcohol better.
How to Break Up With Alcohol, Even on Holidays
St. Patrick’s day may be a holiday where people turn a blind eye to binge drinking, shrugging it off as good fun. But even binge drinking one day of the year can be lethal. If you have an alcohol use disorder or believe a loved one may have an alcohol use disorder, don’t wait until after St. Paddy’s to get the necessary treatment. The Recovery Village is available to provide the help you need, even on holidays.
What makes someone an alcoholic? How do I help someone struggling with alcoholism? For answers to these questions and more, explore frequently asked questions about alcohol addiction.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Fatality Analysis Reporting System.” 2018. Accessed March 9, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Binge Drinking.” December 30, 2019. Accessed March 9, 2020.
National Retail Federation. “St. Patrick’s Day Data Center.” 2020. Accessed March 9, 2020.
Sober St. Patrick’s Day Foundation. “Sober St. Patrick’s Day® 2020.” 2020. Accessed March 9, 2020.
Kiersten Hickman. “13 Non-Alcoholic St. Patrick’s Day Drink Ideas For Those Who Don’t Want To Get Boozy.” Bustle, March 14, 2017. Accessed March 9, 2020.
Adam Augustyn. “Saint Patrick’s Day.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, February 18, 2020. Accessed March 9, 2020.