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Alcohol abuse

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Excessive drinking of alcohol with behavior consistent with other forms of drug abuse is considerd alcohol abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control, excess use of alcohol not only puts a significant toll on the person abusing alcohol but also on others with very significant national cost of over $200 billion dollars in the United States.

Alcohol - its use and abuse
Alcohol - its use and abuse

Binge Drinking:

NIAAA defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men—in about 2 hours.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which conducts the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), defines binge drinking as 5 or more alcoholic drinks for males or 4 or more alcoholic drinks for females on the same occasion (i.e., at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other) on at least 1 day in the past month.

Heavy Alcohol Use: SAMHSA defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month. NIAAA’s Definition of Drinking at Low Risk for Developing Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD): For women, low-risk drinking is defined as no more than 3 drinks on any single day and no more than 7 drinks per week. For men, it is defined as no more than 4 drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week. NIAAA research shows that only about 2 in 100 people who drink within these limits have AUD.

Certain people should avoid alcohol completely, including those who:

Plan to drive a vehicle or operate machinery

Take medications that interact with alcohol

Have a medical condition that alcohol can aggravate

Are pregnant or trying to become pregnant

Alcohol use statistics

38 Million

At least 38 million adults in the US drink too much.

1 in 6

Only 1 in 6 adults talk with their doctor, nurse, or other health professional about their drinking.


Alcohol screening and brief counseling can reduce the amount consumed on an occasion by 25% in those who drink too much.

At least 38 million adults drink too much and most are not alcoholics. Drinking too much includes binge drinking, high weekly use, and any alcohol use by pregnant women or those under age 21. It causes about 88,000 deaths in the US each year, and costs the economy about $224 billion. Alcohol screening and brief counseling can reduce drinking on an occasion by 25% in people who drink too much, but only 1 in 6 people has ever talked with their doctor or other health professional about alcohol use. Talking with a patient about their drinking is the first step of screening and brief counseling, which involves:

  • Using a set of questions to screen all patients for how much and how often they drink.
  • Counseling patients about the health dangers of drinking too much, including women who are (or might be) pregnant.
  • Referring only those few patients who need specialized treatment for alcohol dependence.

Doctors and other health professionals can use alcohol screening and brief counseling to help people who are drinking too much to drink less. The Affordable Care Act requires new health insurance plans to cover this service without a co-payment.

Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals should screen all adult patients and counsel those who drink too much.

Most adults have not talked with a doctor, nurse, or other health professional about how much they drink.

Drinking too much is dangerous and 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.

Public health experts recommend alcohol screening and counseling should happen more often than it does. Yet, people report a doctor, nurse, or other health professional has rarely talked with them about alcohol, the important first step for addressing problems with drinking too much:

Only 1 in 6 adults have discussed their drinking.

Few binge drinkers (1 in 4) have talked about alcohol use. Binge drinking is defined as men drinking 5 or more alcoholic drinks or women drinking 4 or more, in about 2-3 hours.

Even among adults who binge drink 10 times or more a month, only 1 in 3 have discussed drinking.

Only 17% of pregnant women have talked about drinking.

Most states had less than 1 in 4 adults who discussed their drinking. Washington, D.C. had the highest percentage with 25%.

Alcohol screening and brief counseling has been proven to work.

It can reduce how much alcohol a person drinks on an occasion by 25%.

It improves health and saves money just as blood pressure screening, flu vaccines, and cholesterol or breast cancer screening.

It is recommended for all adults, including pregnant women.

External links

  • Evaluate Your Own Drinking - Rethinking Drinking is NIAAA's interactive site for self-help tools to assess and change risky drinking behavior

Effect of alcohol on different groups

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