By Gregg E. Mitchell, MD
Alcohol use increases around the holiday season for a variety of reasons. Many people experience depression and grief around the holiday season from past experiences. The holiday season is a time for parties and celebrations. Assessing for risky alcohol behavior is one of the top preventive services not offered at most healthcare facilities. Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2006 – 2010, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years. Further, excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 years. The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 were estimated at $223.5 billion, or $1.90 a drink.
What is Excessive Drinking?
According to the CDC, excessive drinking includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or people younger than age 21.
• Binge drinking, the most common form of drinking, is defined as consuming:
– For women, 4 or more drinks during a single occasion
– For men, 5 or more drinks during a single occasion
• Heavy drinking is defined as consuming:
– For women, 8 or more drinks per week
– For men, 15 or more drinks per week
Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions. These are most often the result of binge drinking and include the following:
– Injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns
– Violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence
– Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels
– Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV
– Miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) among pregnant women
Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including:
– High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems
– Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon
– Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance
– Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
– Social problems, including lost productivity, family problems, and unemployment
– Alcohol dependence, or alcoholism
Reduce Short- and Long-Term Health Risks
By not drinking too much, you can reduce the risk of these short- and long-term health risks.1 This New Year, be responsible in your use of alcohol. If you feel you engage in risky alcohol use, then make an appointment with your doctor to discuss treatment options. Have a Happy New Year!
The University of Tennessee
Family Medicine Center
294 Summar Drive, Jackson, TN 38301