Denver, the drug friendly Mile High City, known for its fit, active people, beautiful views, cannabis dispensaries and decriminalized magic mushrooms, apparently, has a "drinking problem."
And it’s a pretty serious one, according to Denver Public Health (DPH).
DPH says that the drinking problem in Denver is worse than in any other Western city of its size: 27-percent of the surveyed population confided that they binge drink (consuming four or more drinks in two hours) regularly.
Which seems like an obvious observation if you spend any time out in the city: The streets are lined with awesome craft breweries and award winning distilleries, hip wine makers, fun bars, pubs, gastro-pubs, tasting rooms, restaurants and collectives — all of which serve drinks, all of which are full of happy, tipsy customers. It's the American dream incarnate.
And on weekends, those drinking establishments are overflowing, the bars are packed shoulder to shoulder, and the drink is flowing strong. If “binge drinking” is four or more drinks in under two hours, just about everyone out there on the weekends is binge drinking.
Who can blame us? Denver is full of active people who like to have fun, and Colorado has a lot of really good local beer and liquor to have fun with. Drinking is part of Denver’s culture.
Which, is exactly the problem, according to Dr. Bill Burman, the executive director of Denver Public Health. People are drinking at sporting events, at celebrations, at BBQ’s, with breakfast, lunch and dinner, we drink at concerts, on dates, with family, with friends, with strangers, even. Alcohol is society’s drug of choice (for good or ill); it has been a social lubricant and party elixir for the last 12,000 years (maybe even longer).
Burman says it’s so pervasive throughout the modern world and throughout Denver specifically, that we’ve been desensitized to the dangers of drinking.
“Most of us use alcohol — we’re very familiar with it, hence we don’t see it,” Burman says. “But let me be clear: Denver has a drinking problem.”
A “problem” that Burman and others from DPH think needs an intervention. Whether that means raising Colorado’s liquor taxes (so drinks will cost even more), making it harder for businesses to obtain alcohol licenses, or clamping tighter restrictions on where it’s legal to drink in public, doesn’t matter. As long as people stop drinking so much.
“We as a community can do something about alcohol misuse,” says Burman. “We can prevent many of the acute and chronic effects of alcohol on health through better identification and treatment, environmental controls and heightened public awareness.”
Of course, nobody wants more fatal alcohol-related car crashes. Nobody wants Colorado’s hospitals and ambulances full of people suffering from alcohol poisoning. Nobody wants outsized EMS.
But, higher taxes and more laws certainly don’t seem like the best solutions to Denver's alleged "problem." It just sounds like a good way to invoke the wrath of The People. DPH can lecture on the negative health effects of binge drinking until the Sun rises over Idalia, but at the end of the day, more taxes and laws aren't going to stop people from binge drinking after a long week at the office.
And, if Denver’s drinking habit really bothers someone that much, they're welcome to join any one of the growing number of sober groups around town. Try “Sober Not Boring,” the monthly Denver meetup that hikes mountains and plays pickleball. Or “Sober AF Entertainment,” who sets up sober tailgates at sporting events, music festivals and concerts.
Sound like a riot.