Report: alcohol use should be a doctor’s-office discussion

A new study finds 38 million Americans drink too much, and despite the health risks, very few are honest with their doctors about their behavior. Infographic courtesty of CDC.

SALT LAKE CITY – Some Utahns may be pouring themselves a few too many drinks on a regular basis, despite the health risks.

And a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds many people are not discussing their drinking habits with their doctors.

The report found at least 38 million Americans drink too much, but only one in six has ever actually talked about it with a medical professional.

Dr. Rahul Khare, an emergency room physician, says a short conversation with patients can help people reduce their alcohol use.

“We have actually found that even by talking with people that binge drink, we can actually decrease the alcohol intake the next time they start to drink,” he explains. “So it is very powerful and effective.”

Besides alcoholism, the dangers associated with drinking too much include risks for heart disease, breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks for women, and five or more drinks for men, within two to three hours.

Khare says physicians need to take the discussion with patients beyond the topic of alcohol use and how much they drink.

“Something needs to happen beyond asking the question,” he stresses. “There has to be some education, and then some education around why it’s bad and the health problems that can occur.

“And when you do this, you can sometimes change behavior, which is the goal.”

According to the report, drinking too much causes about 88,000 deaths each year in the U.S., and is responsible for about $224 billion in economic costs in a single year.

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