June 10, 2015

If You’re Drinking Too Much Your Doctor Needs to Know

By Editor

>Many of us may be drinking too much alcohol without realizing that the amount we consume is a risk to our health and well-being. And, according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, cdc.gov), most of us aren’t discussing our alcohol use with healthcare providers, putting us at even great risk for problems associated with heavy drinking.

We tend to be aware of the dangers of alcoholism (a disease that includes problems controlling drinking and physical dependence on alcohol), but we’re less likely to understand that excessive and binge drinking are also significant health concerns. Because we’re not aware of these dangers—and maybe because we’re embarrassed about our drinking—we’re not telling our doctors about our excessive drinking; and our healthcare providers don’t tend to ask about it. This means that they can’t look for warning signs of alcohol-related problems or help us cut back.

According to the CDC, at least 38 million U.S. adults drink what’s considered “too much.” This includes binge drinking (for men, five or more alcoholic drinks in about two or three hours; for women, four or more in two or three hours), high weekly use (an average of more than 15 drinks per week for men and eight for women), and any alcohol use by pregnant women or those under age 21.

But even with 38 million U.S. adults drinking too much, the CDC reports that only one in six adults is discussing their alcohol use with a healthcare provider.

As a result, we’re missing out on some significant benefits: Studies suggest that among people who drink too much, alcohol screening and brief counseling can reduce consumption on an occasion by 25 percent. So if you tend to binge at five drinks on an outing, once you’ve had a chat about drinking with your healthcare provider, you may be more inclined to stop at fewer than one and a half.

Sensible choices when it comes to alcohol use can have a real impact. Not only is excessive drinking responsible for around 88,000 deaths in the United State each year and about $224 billion in expenses, it can lead to heart disease, breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, sudden infant death syndrome, motor-vehicle crashes, and violence. Each person who cuts back on alcohol can help reduce the incidence of these issues.

It’s easy to understand that as patients and healthcare providers, we can’t afford not to discuss alcohol use with our healthcare providers. We hope that our doctors, nurses, and others will act on the need to ask us. But we can also do our part as healthcare consumers by starting the conversation, being honest about our drinking, and seeking help if we think we’re drinking too much.

 

 

Tags: Nutritional Know-How

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