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Indiana Doctor: Be Honest about Alcohol Consumption

GRAPHIC: A study from the CDC finds only 1 in 6 Americans talks to a doctor about drinking too much. Graphic courtesy of CDC.
GRAPHIC: A study from the CDC finds only 1 in 6 Americans talks to a doctor about drinking too much. Graphic courtesy of CDC.
January 14, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS - Too many Hoosiers are drinking heavily and not being honest about it, according to a new study from the CDC. The report found that at least 38 million Americans drink too much, but only one in six has ever discussed the behavior with a doctor. Experts say alcohol screening and brief counseling can reduce drinking on an occasion by 25 percent in people who drink too much, but according to Dr. Louis Profeta, an emergency physician with St. Vincent's Hospital, it's hard to screen patients because they often aren't truthful about their alcohol intake.

"Most times they're not going to admit to, 'Hey, I'm binge drinking on the weekend.' In fact, most are going to substantially diminish the amount of alcohol they're going to consume," the doctor said. "So we just have to be cognizant of it and have honest discussions with patients about their alcohol use."

According to the CDC, binge drinking and high weekly use cause about 88,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, and cost the economy about $224 billion. Indiana has the 32nd-highest percentage of binge drinkers and the 39th-highest percentage of heavy drinkers among the 50 states and D.C.

There are dangers associated with drinking too much, including heart disease, breast cancer, sexually-transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy. Profeta said it can have a profound effect on daily life.

"It's sort of a reckless kind of behavior. It is going to lead to decreased productivity and trouble with interpersonal/social relationships, and over time these people are going to develop alcoholism, so early intervention and counseling is important," he declared.

The CDC is advising physicians to talk with their patients about the health dangers of drinking too much, to use a set of questions to screen all patients for how much and how often they drink, and to refer only those few patients who need specialized treatment or counseling.

That CDC study is at

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN