St. Patrick's Day no excuse to go overboard on Guinness, expert says

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(CBS) A pint or two on St. Patrick's Day is usually no biggie. But doctors are reminding revelers about the dangers of excessive merrymaking - on St. Pat's Day or any other holiday.

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"It's obvious that holidays like St. Patrick's Day are associated with heavy drinking," addiction psychiatrist Dr. Mark L. Willenbring, former director of the division of treatment and recovery research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction, tells CBS News. "There tends to be much more social approval of getting drunk on a holiday. Lots of people are doing it, and people are more forgiving about it."

More forgiving on holidays, maybe. But there's little doubt that binge-drinking is risky business no matter when it occurs.

How risky? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol-related accidents and health problems cause more than 79,000 deaths a year. The agency defines binge drinking as men having five or more alcoholic drinks in a short period of time or women having four or more drinks in a short period. What counts as a drink? Dr. Willenbring says it's 12 ounces of beer, one shot of vodka, or a five-ounce glass of wine.

Binge-drinking is especially common among adults between the ages of 18 and 34, with about 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by people under age 21 coming in binges. And being male and making lots of money raise the likelihood of binge-drinking. People whose household income is $75,000 a year or higher are more likely to binge than people earning less, according to the CDC.

No matter what your age or income, Dr. Willenbring says people who do drink on holidays should plan their alcohol consumption. "Set a limit, and count your drinks," Dr. Willenbring says. "And pace and space - consume a non-alcoholic drink been alcoholic drinks."

Bottom line? Says Dr. Willenbring, "St. Pat's Day is not an opportunity to get hammered."

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