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Cost of Excessive Drinking in Texas: $16 Billion

PHOTO: It's estimated that about one in six adults in the U.S. drink "too much," and while excessive alcohol can cause a variety of health problems, very few people say they discuss this issue with their doctor. Photo credit: Jirka Matousek
PHOTO: It's estimated that about one in six adults in the U.S. drink "too much," and while excessive alcohol can cause a variety of health problems, very few people say they discuss this issue with their doctor. Photo credit: Jirka Matousek
January 13, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas - A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that at least 38 million Americans drink too much. According to Texas experts, the costs and dangers of binge drinking are especially acute for women.

Dr. Jane Maxwell, senior research scientist, School of Social Work, University of Texas at Austin, said women who pre-party or try to keep up with men with their numbers of drinks are putting themselves at added risk of chronic health issues such as cirrhosis and cancers, and also for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexual assault.

"This is a risky combination, particularly if they play drinking games with the guys like beer pong or others. They're getting their BAC (blood alcohol content) up very high, very quickly, and a lot of times they don't really realize that they are at risk of losing control," Maxwell said.

Binge drinking is also linked to increased risks for car crashes, falls, burns and firearm injuries.

The CDC report also noted that only about one in six people talks to their doctor about drinking, although alcohol screening and brief counseling could help heavy drinkers cut their consumption by 25 percent. In addition to a greater focus by health care professionals, Maxwell said families also need to get involved.

"When I was growing up, one of the lectures from momma was, 'Don't get drunk because you might get pregnant.' When I ask people I'm lecturing to about that, other than the older women they look at me like I'm crazy - because mothers don't give that lecture very often," she explained.

In Texas, the yearly cost of binge drinking is estimated at $16 billion, which includes expenses related to health care, criminal justice and lost work productivity.

The CDC report is available at http://1.usa.gov. Texas substance abuse information is at http://bit.ly/1dfgprs.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX