In a report released Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlighted that alcohol screening and counseling is an effective but underused health service. In fact, only 1 in 6 adults in the United States reported discussing alcohol use with a health professional.
Most of us have heard the term binge drinking, but for many the idea of unhealthy drinking is limited to those with an addiction. While some people may develop alcohol dependence, there are other significant health consequences for anyone who drinks too much. For example, drinking too much can lead to heart disease, breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, sudden infant death syndrome, falls, motor-vehicle crashes, and violence.
So how much is too much? According to the CDC, “drinking too much includes binge drinking, high weekly use, and any alcohol use by pregnant women or those under age 21.” See the graphic below, for more information about unhealthy alcohol use — keep in mind these numbers do not apply to people with some medical conditions and/or those who are currently taking certain medications. Also, AlcoholScreening.org provides free and anonymous screening to help people learn how much is too much for them.
According to the CDC alcohol screening and brief counseling can reduce the amount of alcohol consumed on an occasion by 25 percent among those who drink too much.
In Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Bureau of Substance Abuse Services has worked to the expand Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) for nearly a decade. In June 2012, DPH completed a 5 year SAMHSA-funded SBIRT project through which over 140,000 people were screened for unhealthy alcohol and drug use leading to 20,290 received brief interventions and another 4,635 were referred to treatment. DPH also funded SBIRT in 6 hospital emergency departments between 2007 and 2012. That project screened over 40,000 people and provided 11,710 brief interventions and referred over 8,500 people to treatment.