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Wasting Away: Keys Lead State In Binge Drinking

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The Florida Keys are famous as a place to party. That's how they got the nickname "Margaritaville."

But the hard-drinking lifestyle is taking a toll on the residents.

"We have the highest percentage of binge drinkers in the state of Florida," said Alison Kerr, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health in the Keys.

Binge drinking is more than just a cocktail or two after work.

"Essentially, someone sits down and drinks about five drinks in one sitting," Kerr said.

Credit FLHealthCharts / Florida Bureau of Vital Statistcs
Florida Bureau of Vital Statistcs

Just over 24 percent of Monroe County adults in the survey reported binge drinking on a regular basis. Statewide, the figure was 17.5 percent.

The report comes from an annual behaviorial risk factor survey conducted by the CDC.

Kerr said the local Health Department will use the survey results to work with local groups that provide counseling and other services to prevent alcohol abuse — and will be providing more information about cirrhosis, a fatal liver disease linked to alcohol abuse.

Monroe County also leads the state in its suicide rate, another issue the Department of Health is concerned with, she said.

But it's not all bad news for the Keys. The county is among the nation's lowest when it comes to the percentage of people who are obese or overweight, she said.

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Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.