"Le Binge Drinking" on the Rise in France
A nation known for "not overdoing it" has seen a steep rise in alcohol-related illnesses.
France has seen a steep increase in the number of patients hospitalized for binge drinking, according to the French Society for Alcohol Abuse. Around 400,000 people are admitted to French hospitals each year for alcohol-related conditions like comas, hepatitis and liver cirrhosis, a 30% rise from three years ago. Short term admissions for symptoms related to what young people call "le binge-drinking" are also up by a staggering 80%. Stereotypically, the French are known for maintaining a healthy attitude towards alcohol, drinking mostly at meals and "not overdoing it." But the trend could be shifting from moderation to excess, especially among younger generations. “We are seeing more and more young people arriving at accident and emergency clinics in drunken states who remain in hospital for one or two days to be sobered up, says Dr. Damien Labarrière, a specialist based in Orleans, "We are also seeing young patients whose health is already seriously affected due to pancreas or liver diseases like cirrhosis which previously did not show until much later in life.” Figures from 2009 reveal that alcohol was responsible for 49,000 deaths in France, 40% under the age of 65. Hortense Dormoy, a journalist for Marie-Claire, says France's binge drinking culture "originated from England, where young people take advantage of 'happy hours' to drink as much as possible in as short a time." Others blame the internet. "Social networks have democratized consumption of alcohol and proclaimed drunkeness as a status symbol," says Professor Michel Reynaud, an addiction specialist in Paris. Paradoxically, alcohol consumption as a whole in France has declined by 50% over the past 50 years.