Problem alcohol use in America is on the rise
- Limit your drinking to no more than 1 drink a day for women or 2 drinks a day for men.
- Keep track of how much you drink.
- Choose a day each week when you will not drink.
- Don’t drink when you are upset.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you keep at home.
- Avoid places where people drink a lot.
- Make a list of reasons not to drink.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month
By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Kaiser Permanente
Americans are facing an alcohol crisis that hasn’t gotten the attention that the country’s opioid crisis has in recent years, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal Psychiatry of the American Medical Association.
The study looked at a significant increase in alcohol use based on data from two National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions — in 2001-2002 and 2012-2013 — which showed a nearly 50 percent increase in alcohol use disorders over the 11 years between the two surveys, among other concerning findings.
While moderate consumption of alcohol is generally OK — some research even suggests that a glass of wine per day could contribute to overall health and longevity — every person is different. Medical conditions and other health factors determine whether any alcohol consumption is safe for a person, and scientists and physicians universally agree that heavy alcohol consumption is never OK.
“Moderation is important. People often feel obligated to drink a large quantity of a beverage to enjoy it,” said Dr. Carol Venable, Internal Medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Frisco Medical Offices when asked about drinking in social situations such as going out to dinner. “Often, less is more.”
Venable said it’s important for people to honestly discuss their alcohol use with a healthcare provider. People with liver disease, for example, should not drink alcohol. And alcohol can also negatively interact with certain medications.
About 27 percent of adults have engaged in binge drinking in the past month, according to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams percent or above, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This usually means five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women in a two-hour period.
Binge-drinking is the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Risks associated with binge-drinking include unintentional injuries such as car crashes and falls, violence, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, cancer, memory and learning problems, alcohol dependence and more.
“We advise avoidance of binge drinking,” Venable said. “In addition, in healthy persons, we advise two or less drinks a day in men, and one or less drink per day in women. In pregnant women and patients with a variety of medical conditions, the recommendation is no alcohol.”
Problem drinking that becomes severe is given a medical diagnosis of alcohol use disorder, or AUD, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. It’s estimated that about 16 million people in the United States have AUD.
The reasons for alcohol abuse vary, but research shows that psychological traits, social and environmental factors, and sometimes genetic factors are at play.
“For some alcohol abusers, psychological traits such as impulsiveness, low self-esteem and a need for approval prompt inappropriate drinking,” according to the American Psychological Association. “Some individuals drink to cope with or ‘medicate’ emotional problems. Social and environmental factors such as peer pressure and the easy availability of alcohol can play key roles. Poverty and physical or sexual abuse also increase the odds of developing alcohol dependence.”
The numerous medical conditions associated with heavy alcohol use include liver diseases, esophagitis, reflux, pancreatitis and several cancers.
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