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CDC: Americans are Drinking too Much, Doctors Need to Act

Update Date: Jan 08, 2014 11:57 AM EST

According to the latest report out of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), too many Americans are drinking alcohol and doctors are not working hard enough to discourage it. The CDC report focused on people who drink but would not be categorized as alcoholics. The agency believes that if doctors were to talk to their patients about alcohol, they could help urge their patients to drink less.

"The goal here is not to tell people to never have another drink," Dr. Tom Frieden, the head of the CDC, stated according to NPR. "The health system is not doing an effective job finding out about these health problems."

In the report, the CDC reported that from 2006 to 2010, excessive alcohol intake could be tied to nearly 88,000 deaths per year within the U.S. In 2006, alcohol was responsible for $224 billion in economic costs. In order to assess the situation now, the researchers analyzed survey answers that came from 44 states and the District of Columbia (DC). The survey was distributed from August 1 to December 31, 2011 and focused on patient-doctor communication levels in regards to alcohol reported by the patients. The researchers examined 166,753 adults.

They found that overall, 15.7 percent of the people stated that they had talked with their doctors about alcohol use. For drinkers, that percentage was 17.4 and for binge drinkers, it was 25.4. The researchers found that people between 18- and 24-years-old had the highest rate when it came to doctor-patient communication about alcohol. Roughly 27.9 percent of this age group talked with a health professional about alcohol within the past year. Only 13.4 percent of binge drinkers did so within the same time frame. The CDC stressed the importance for doctors to take 10 or 15 minutes and have this conversation.

"It may be going from six drinks on a Friday night to three or four," Frieden said. "It might mean spacing them out, or having something to drink besides alcohol."

The data were published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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