Alcohol Awareness Month

Springtime is a preview to a party with friends -- the smell of grilled food and good times, but it also ushers in Alcohol Awareness Month. Though we rarely think of alcohol use and abuse as a significant health risk, too much drinking can increase the risk of injuries, illnesses, birth defects, violence, drowning, liver disease and even some types of cancer.  

Did you know...
  • There are approximately 88,000 deaths due to excessive alcohol use each year in the United States. This makes alcohol abuse the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death nationally.
  • There are nearly 18 million Americans classified with alcohol dependence or abuse.    
  • 41 percent of deaths from motor vehicle crashes are due to alcohol
  • About 35% of violence report their offenders are under the influence of alcohol.  Alcohol use is also associated with 2 out of 3 incidents of intimate partner violence.
  • Studies have also shown that alcohol is a leading factor in child maltreatment and neglect cases, and is the most frequent substance abused among these parents.
  • 1.2 million emergency room visits and 2.7 million physician office visits in 2006 were due to excessive drinking.  The cost, more than $223.5 billion

Heavy alcohol use can cause serious damage to the body and can affect the liver, brain, nervous system, muscles, lungs, and heart.  There are both short term and long term health risk associated with excessive alcohol use.  

Some short-term risks include:
  • injuries (traffic accidents, falls, burns, drownings)
  •  risky sexual behaviors
  •  miscarriage and stillbirths in pregnant women  
  • alcohol poisoning    

Long term effects may include:
  • Neurological problems, including dementia, stroke and neuropathy
  • Cardiovascular problems, including myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation and hypertension.
  • Psychiatric problems, including depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Social problems, including unemployment, lost productivity, and family problems.
  • Cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast. In general, the risk of cancer increases with increasing amounts of alcohol.
  • Liver diseases, including alcohol hepatitis and cirrhosis
  • Other gastrointestinal problems, including pancreatitis and gastritis.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, if you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.  Remember, no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men.
One drink =
  • 12-ounce bottle of beer
  • 5-ounce glass of wine
  • 1.5-ounce shot of liquor.    

There are some people who should not drink any alcohol, including those who are:
  • Pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
  • Taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that may cause harmful reactions when mixed with alcohol.
  • Younger than age 21.
  • Recovering from alcoholism or are unable to control the amount they drink.
  • Suffering from a medical condition that may be worsened by alcohol.
  • Driving, planning to drive, or participating in other activities requiring skill, coordination, and alertness.

If you believe you are drinking too much, please contact your health care provider.  You can improve your health by cutting back or quitting. Below are some strategies that may help individuals to stop or cut back on alcohol use:
  • Limit 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.
  • Don’t drink when you are upset.
  • Avoid places where people drink a lot.
  • Make a list of reasons not to drink.
  • Consider joining a support group  

Live Well,
Dr. D. 
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