Excessive drinking can greatly increase a person’s risks of injuries, drowning, liver disease, some types of cancer and violence.

And during Alcohol Awareness Month, everyone can take steps to prevent alcohol misuse or abuse — physicians and nurses and speak out about the benefits of drinking less and/or quitting; friends and family members can suggest small changes for those they worry are drinking too much, such as suggesting they keep track of their drinking or set drink limits and parents can take time to speak with their children, in age-appropriate ways, about the risks of alcohol abuse.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, excessive use of alcohol led to an estimated 88,000 deaths and 2.5 years of potential life lost every year in the U.S. from 2006-10, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years.

The CDC also indicated that excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 years.

In the US, a standard drink contains 0.6 ounces or about 1.2 tablespoons of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in

  • 12-ounces of beer
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor
  • 5-ounces of wine
  • 1.5-ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor such as gin, rum, vodka, whiskey

Also known as “binge drinking,” the CDC considers it to be excessive drinking, or heavy drinking when:

  • A woman drinks 4 or more drinks during a single occasion.
  • A man drinks 5 or more drinks during a single occasion.

The CDC also terms heavy drinking as a woman consuming 8 or more drinks per week and a man drinking 15 or more drinks per week.

For those who are moderate drinkers, the CDC defines it as up to one drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks daily for men.

During Alcohol Awareness Month, medical professionals caution that there are specific people who should not drink any alcohol, including those who are:

  • Younger than age 21.
  • Pregnant or may be pregnant.
  • Driving, planning to drive or participating in other activities requiring skill, coordination, and alertness.
  • Taking certain prescription or over-the-counter medications that can interact with alcohol.
  • Suffering from certain medical conditions.
  • Recovering from alcoholism or are unable to control the amount they drink.

Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions. These are most often the result of binge drinking and include injuries such as those received in motor vehicle crashes, or as a result of falls and drownings; violence, including homicide and suicide; alcohol poisoning and more.

Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to long-term health risks, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems; cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and colon; learning and memory problems; social problems such as unemployment and ultimately alcohol dependence or alcoholism.

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Author: Lompoc Valley Medical Center,

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