According to the Centers for Disease Control, binge drinking cost the U.S. economy $249 billion in 2010. I understand that the CDC was supposed to release more recent data but the team had a wild night out and missed work with raging hangovers. JK.

What’s even funnier is that the head of the CDC’s Alcohol Program thought an 11% increase in costs from 2006 to 2010 was “concerning, particularly given the severe economic recession that occurred during these years.”

Well duh. That is the reason for the increase. I know I drank more when the economy hit the skids. Didn’t you?

Look, I think it’s high time we had a sober conversation about booze, particularly binge drinking, which the CDC defines as at least five drinks for men and four for women. Are they kidding? That’s like a typical Saturday night for the wife and me.

I bet you didn’t know that the alcohol content in wine has been slowly creeping up over the years. Today, a typical bottle of Chardonnay or Cabernet amounts to seven drinks by the DMV definition of 0.5 oz of pure alcohol per drink. So just splitting a bottle of wine gets you one drink away from a “binge,” so says the CDC.

In the immortal words of John Lennon, “Whatever gets you through the night, it’s alright, it’s alright. Whatever gets you through your life, it’s alright, it’s alright.” Just don’t abuse it by hiding from your problems behind a drunken stupor.

Let’s get real. We all drink more than we let on. I mean, when you fill out the form for a doctor’s visit, do you tell the truth about how many drinks you have on average? Of course not. You don’t want him to think you’re a raging alcoholic. If you have two or three a day and a few more on Saturday nights, you’ll likely say one or two.

Ironically, my internal medicine doc who gave me a hard time about my drinking and cholesterol for ages, sadly ended up dying of a massive heart attack in his 50s. I know that’s just one data point, but still, you just never know. When it’s your time, it’s your time.

Also, and I do mean this sort of seriously, if you ask a doctor what’s worse for you, the occasional wild night out or having one or two too many every night, he’ll say neither, but if you push him on it, he’ll say the latter, as long as you don’t do anything really stupid and hurt yourself or someone else.

Truth is, I take care of myself. I get lots of exercise and my wife’s a chef/nutritionist, so we eat right too. We have a healthy lifestyle. Except for one thing. We party. We like to have a good time. Everyone has a vice. That’s ours. There’s no shame in that.

True story: You know how Joe Coulombe came up with the wacky idea of combining healthy food with good wine and spirits when he founded Trader Joe’s? He read that upwardly mobile educated folks – whom he was targeting with stores near universities – drank a lot. I have no idea if that’s true or not, but you’ve got to admit, it’s one hell-of-a good rationalization. It works for me.

What I think matters most here is that, whatever your lifestyle outside of work, it should never impact your work. Back in the 80s and 90s many of my coworkers and I partied hard ‘til all hours of the night, but we were always hard at work the next morning. And if we occasionally got a bit of a late start, we worked long hours to make up for it.

When I was the marketing veep, we’d have these enormous booths and events at big trade shows in Las Vegas, Hanover, Beijing, wherever. I’d always tell the team: party hard, but if you’re not at your first customer meeting or booth duty in the morning, I’ll never send you to one of these again. And I walked the talk.

One last thing. I don’t support lowering the DUI limit beyond .08 – a couple should be able to have a couple of glasses of wine with dinner and drive home from the restaurant. After all, we’re pretty dependent on our cars here and highway patrol is everywhere. It’s definitely not like Europe. That said, drunk driving is bad news. It kills people and ruins lives, big-time. Trust me; I know of what I speak.

There must be some heavy opinions on the subject; let’s hear them.

(Image Flickr user thelastminute)