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Majority of People who Drink are not Alcoholics

Update Date: Nov 21, 2014 09:35 AM EST
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The majority of people who drink excessively or binge drink alcohol are not alcoholics, a new federal study concluded.

"A lot of people mistakenly assume that people who drink too much are alcoholics," said study co-author Dr. Robert Brewer, the leader of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) alcohol program. "But a lot of it is a reflection of the fact that we live in a society where people get a lot of mixed messages about drinking. A lot of people have been led to believe that drinking, and often drinking a large amount, is part of having a good time. What we need to do is change the environment in which people make their drinking decisions."

For this study, the researchers examined the drinking trends in 138,100 adults who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2009, 2010 or 2011. Binge drinking was defined as having at least five drinks on one occasion for men and at least four drinks for women. Excessive drinking was defined as drinking 15 drinks or more per week for men and eight drinks or more per week for women.

The researchers discovered that out of the group of people who reported drinking excessively, 90 percent of them were not dependent on alcohol. Men between the ages of 18 and 24 with a household yearly income of at least $75,000 had the highest rate of binge and excessive drinking. The remaining 10 percent of people who were dependent on alcohol, however, tended to be from households that made less than $25,000 per year.

The team found that excessive drinking can be tied to 88,000 deaths per year and around 3,700 alcohol-dependent people die each year from alcohol-induced causes such as violence, poisoning and car crashes.

"We need to look at a broader array of interventions that can address excessive drinking in those who are not alcoholics," Brewer said according to WebMD.

The study was published in the CDC's journal of Preventing Chronic Disease.

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