Wyoming Fares Well In National Binge Drinking Study, Unlike Wisconsin

In a new national binge drinking study, Wyoming ended up better than most states with 19% of adults admitting they were excessive drinkers. Utah had the lowest amount at 12% and Wisconsin had the highest at 26%.

DK
Dale Killingbeck

November 22, 20234 min read

Drunk green bay fan

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed a lot of things — including how some states turned to alcohol to cope.

That would be no surprise to critics of Wisconsin, the cheese state and beer capital of the U.S., whose residents have a well-earned reputation for using any excuse to pull another favorite beverage from the fridge.

In Wyoming, it was a slightly different story, according to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute’s 2023 County Health Rankings and Roadmap Report.

The study uses 2020 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance system to rank counties and states. The data comes from those who self-reported drinking to excess, meaning binge and heavy drinking. Binge drinking is four or more drinks on one occasion for women and five for men. Heavy drinking means eight or more drinks a week for women and 15 or more for men.

Leading the nation at 26% admitting to drinking to excess is Wisconsin. Nineteen states were higher than 20%. In Wyoming, 19% said they’re prone to having a few too many. The lowest state was Utah at 12%.

North-Central States Led Nation

The study reveals states with the most excessive drinking in addition to Wisconsin were Iowa, Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota.

Thomas Montoya, Wyoming Department of Revenue Administrator for the Liquor Division, told Cowboy State Daily that sales figures confirm more people took their spirits and wine home with them that year.

“It kind of skyrocketed. It was mostly on the off-premise side,” he said. “What that means is package stores, because there were a lot of restrictions” at places like bars and restaurants.

Montoya said that in 2020 $124.5 million worth of alcohol was sold. That translates to about 1 million cases of spirits and wine, where 59% of those cases were spirits and 41% wine.

“The pandemic really drove things up,” he said, sharing that ready-to-drink mixed drinks and cocktails were a huge mover.

While he does not yet have figures for 2022, Montoya said sales are now getting back to more normal pre-pandemic levels, but the dollar amount is probably higher because of increased prices.

Wyoming Counties

A breakdown of counties in Wyoming from the University of Wisconsin report shows the following percentage of people reported they drank to excess that year:

  • Sublette County: 22%

  • Platte County: 21%

  • Sheridan County: 21%

  • Teton County: 21%

  • Albany County: 20%

  • Campbell County: 20%

  • Crook County: 20%

  • Goshen County: 20%

  • Lincoln County: 20%

  • Park County: 20%

  • Carbon County: 19%

  • Hot Springs County: 19%

  • Johnson County: 19%

  • Natrona County: 19%

  • Sweetwater County: 19%

  • Freemont County: 19%

  • Big Horn County: 19%

  • Washakie County: 19%

  • Weston County: 19%

  • Converse County: 18%

  • Niobrara County: 18%

  • Uinta County: 18%

  • Laramie County: 17%

Wyoming State Liquor Association Executive Director Mike Moser said it is difficult to draw conclusions from a study that used a pandemic year as its basis.

“The news is positive in 2022 — underage drinking is down,” he said, referring to the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health that shows 5.8 million in the U.S. between ages 12 and 20 said they consume alcohol, but that same age group shows binge drinking and heavy use of alcohol has declined since 2013.

“We always need to do better,” Moser said.

Health Department Role

Wyoming Department of Health spokesperson Kim Deti said the department’s support efforts in local communities are focused on prevention of alcohol misuse through grants to counties.

“We also help fund treatment for substance use disorders in communities around the state through our Behavioral Health Division,” she said.

Sublette County Prevention Specialist Becky Crowe said she would like to dig into the data to determine how the study was put together. She characterizes the potential factors that made Sublette the highest percentage county for excessive drinking as not much different than the rest of the rural state.

“We are trying to create more fun activities in the county that do not have alcohol as part of the equation,” she said. “Things that are fun together and can bring us out of our isolation.”

Dale Killingbeck can be reached at dale@cowboystatedaily.com.

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