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The madness of March drinking holidays

Posted on 02-20-16 in Addiction, Alcohol Rehab

The madness of March drinking holidays

March Madness, St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras, Daylight Savings Time and Easter make for a jam-packed month. With more sunlight to enjoy the outdoors mixed with college basketball tournaments and Irish car bombs, March Madness allows for more time to celebrate with fellow basketball fans and partying Irish. This means more alcohol and drunken debauchery, which potentially may lead to compulsive and addictive behaviors. Are these celebratory holidays really worth the potential risk?

Irish whiskey and green shamrocks

St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 celebrates the arrival of Christianity to Ireland and commemorates the feast of the famous Saint Patrick. Today it is celebrated across the world by wearing green and drinking Irish car bombs and Guinness. Similar to Cinco de Mayo, it is just another excuse to drink. In fact, according to an article in U.S. News, St. Patrick’s Day is the fourth most popular drinking holiday in the United States, and over 13 million pints of Guinness will be consumed on this day — enough to fill over two Olympic-sized swimming pools.

On a more sobering note, a fatal car crash occurs every 46 minutes on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Simply put, this is a compulsion holiday — a one-day celebration with an excuse to drink green beer and pinch a fellow partygoer who is not wearing green.

Betting on basketball and drinking games

Many people view gambling as walking into a casino and betting on red or black in roulette, or trying to beat the house at blackjack. In fact, March is one of the biggest gambling months due to the popular college basketball tournament known as March Madness. Nearly 40 million Americans fill out March Madness brackets, placing bets on which teams will advance in the tournament, and a total of $9 billion is spent on total March Madness bets.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), gambling disorder is defined as the “persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.” Nearly 80 percent of Americans participate in some form of gambling and nearly 3 million meet the DSM criteria for compulsive gambling.

Not only is gambling on the rise during March Madness, but compulsive drinking is also increased during this month. Although the NCAA bans the sale of alcohol at the March Madness games, it is technically up to the host venues whether or not they will serve alcohol at these events.

Additionally, basketball fans continue to heavily drink while watching these basketball games either at home or a local bar. For college students, an increase in alcohol consumption on college campus often leads to more risky behavior, not to mention the increase in violent riots and arrests — especially if that particular college is participating in the March Madness tournament.

The dichotomy of Lent season and March compulsive behaviors

Ironically, the March Madness drinking and gambling festivities fall dead in the center of the Lent season — a 40-day period before Easter that is representative of the repentance for sins among Christians. This year, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10, which is the day following Fat Tuesday, the commencement of one of the biggest party holidays of the year: Mardi Gras.

Mardi Gras literally means “Fat Tuesday” and is known for the hedonistic, raucous celebration that ends one day before the season of repentance known as Lent. The Christian roots of Mardi Gras are derived from the word Carnival. Carnival originated from the Latin words “carne vale,” which means “farewell to the flesh.” During this time, many give up sinful or hedonistic behaviors to cleanse themselves during the Lent season, which lasts almost the entire month of March this year. While many Christians give up guilty pleasures such as alcohol, chocolate and meat, many others are consuming green beer and gambling on which college basketball team will win their bracket, which demonstrates the compulsive behaviors involved in these celebrations.

Before the celebrations begin, plan ahead by finding venues and parties that do not serve alcohol, but rather offer fun non-alcoholic alternatives. The Sovereign Health Group is a leading behavioral health care provider with nationwide locations that help treat people with alcohol addictions, drug addictions, mental health disorders, eating disorders and co-occurring disorders. For more information, call our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Kristen Fuller, M.D., is a senior staff writer at the Sovereign Health Group and enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the cutting-edge world of medicine. She is a physician and author who also teaches, practices medicine in the urgent care setting and contributes to medicine board education. She is also an outdoor and dog enthusiast. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at