Cost of Excessive Drinking in the Billions
PHOTO: It's estimated that about one in six adults in the U.S. drinks "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 16, 2014
LEXINGTON, Ky. – A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds at least 38 million Americans drink too much, and experts say the costs and dangers of binge drinking are especially acute for women.
Jane Maxwell, a senior research scientist with the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin, says 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 and sexual assault.
"This is a risky combination, particularly if they play drinking games with the guys, like beer pong or some of these others,” she adds. “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, losing control."
Binge drinking also is linked to increased risks for car crashes, falls, burns and firearm injuries.
At the University of Kentucky, an all-volunteer group of students (Student Wellness Ambassadors) is carrying the message to their peers about the harmful impacts of binge drinking.
Drew Smith, director of UK's office of Substance Education and Responsibility (SEAR), says the message is not geared toward anti-drinking.
"They're not alcohol police and they're not morality police,” he explains. “The choice to drink is entirely someone's individual and personal choice. However, we do arm them with education."
Smith explains when it comes to talking about healthy, acceptable behavior, peer education works the best.
In his words, "A voice of their own generation can communicate more effectively."
The CDC report notes that only about one in six people talks to a 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 says 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,'” she relates. “When I ask people that I'm lecturing to, other than the older women, they look at me like I'm crazy - because mothers don't give that lecture very often."