Midwest Remains America's "Binge Belt"
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New analysis of a CDC report on US alcohol consumption found that the Midwest remains America's "wettest" region; people there drink more alcohol more often than elsewhere. The Midwest binge drinking rate stands at 20%, and the epicenter of the "binge belt" seems to be Wisconsin, at 21.6%—compared with a national average of 15%. In 2006 there were 446 alcohol-related driving deaths in Illinois alone, and from 2007-2008 in Minnesota there were four binge drinking-related student deaths. But while the Midwest is home to the nation's thirstiest drunks, there are signs that at least the problem isn't growing: binge rates in Illinois (17.8%) and Chicago (17.2%) have held pretty much steady. Binge drinking is defined as drinking four or more drinks in a session for a woman, or five or more drinks for a man. Around 38 million Americans binge drink, and the CDC report notes noted that the practice causes of 80,000 deaths annually in the US. It also costs taxpayers an estimated $223.5 billion a year—that's about $746 per person, or $1.90 per drink.