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03-17 St. Patrick’s Day drinking and its effects on the teenage brain

Posted in Substance Abuse

St. Patrick’s Day drinking and its effects on the teenage brain

Despite its religious connotations, St. Patrick’s Day ranks as one of the biggest drinking days of the year, as more than 33 million Irish-Americans and their fellows raise pints of beer shouting “slainte” worldwide.

The origin of St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day originated as a cultural and religious celebration held on March 17, the traditional death date of St. Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland. The day commemorates St. Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general.

Evolution into a drinking day

St. Patrick’s Day is now an international festival celebrating Irish culture with parades, dancing, special foods, a whole lot of green and too much alcohol.

It wasn’t until the late 20th century that Ireland repealed a law that kept everything, including pubs, shut down for the day. Combined with the fact that Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day and a marketing push from Budweiser in the 1980s, the holiday’s tradition of alcohol consumption was significantly consolidated.

Binge drinking is seemingly encouraged, as most bars host day-long parties, serving green beer and Irish whiskey.

Some overwhelming facts include:

  • Patrick’s Day is ranked fourth as the most popular drinking holiday
  • 13 million pints of Guinness are consumed worldwide on St. Patrick’s Day
  • Between 2010 and 2014, 266 drunk-driving casualties were recorded on just St. Patrick’s Day
  • Alcohol-related car crashes on St. Patrick’s occur with a recorded interval of 74 minutes only
  • 75 percent of fatal car crashes on this day involved a driver who consumed alcohol twice that of the legal limit

Binge drinking: Why is it harmful?

While downing pints of green beer may be the “it” thing for St. Patrick’s Day parties, it’s really not for the brain.

Research shows that binge drinking damages the brain, even if occasional. Young people are especially susceptible because their brains are still in the process of development. Studies of MRI scans of the brains of teens who drank heavily depicted profound damaged nerve tissue compared to those who did not. Studies have proven that alcohol can initiate long-term damage to the brain that affects memory, coordination and movement.

A study published in 2013 observed college students in Brazil and Spain over a stretch of two years and reported similar trends. The researchers discovered those who binge drank faced greater challenges recalling information on memory tests – both immediately and after 30 minutes.

Binge drinking has also been reported to result in alcohol poisoning and exert profound effects on the frontal cortex, an area involved with judgment, thinking, memory, and feeling.

What makes all of this even more scary is the fact that about 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by high school students is consumed through binging.

It is important to realize when enough is enough if you are out parting today. There are lots of other ways to have fun with your friends that involve alcohol-free activities. Go green and stay safe.

About us

Sovereign Health is a leading behavioral health treatment provider, devoted to the provision of evidence-based treatment for substance abuse disorders and mental illnesses. If you or a loved one is currently struggling to regain control of your life, help is just a phone call away.

About the author

Sana Ahmed is a staff writer for Sovereign Health Group. A journalist and social media savvy content developer with extensive research, print and on-air interview skills, Sana has previously worked as an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster. She writes to share the amazing developments from the mental health world and unsuccessfully attempts to diagnose her friends and family. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at    

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