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April is Alcohol Awareness Month

There are approximately 79,000 deaths attributable to excessive alcohol use each year in the United States. This makes excessive alcohol use the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death for the nation.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, if you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation, which is defined as no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men. However, there are some persons who should not drink any alcohol, including those who are:

  • Pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
  • Taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that may cause harmful reactions when mixed with alcohol.
  • Younger than age 21.
  • Recovering from alcoholism or are unable to control the amount they drink.
  • Suffering from a medical condition that may be worsened by alcohol.
  • Driving, planning to drive, or participating in other activities requiring skill, coordination, and alertness.

Immediate Health Risks

Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions. These immediate effects are most often the result of binge drinking and include the following—

  • Unintentional injuries, including traffic injuries.
  • Violence, including intimate partner violence and child maltreatment.
  • Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, and increased risk of sexual assault.
  • Miscarriage and stillbirth among pregnant women, and a combination of physical and mental birth defects among children that last throughout life.
  • Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels that suppress the central nervous system and can cause loss of consciousness, low blood pressure and body temperature, coma, respiratory depression, or death.

Long-Term Health Risks

Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases, neurological impairments and social problems. These include but are not limited to—

  • Cardiovascular problems, including myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation and hypertension.
  • Psychiatric problems, including depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Social problems, including unemployment, lost productivity, and family problems.
  • Cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, and breast. In general, the risk of cancer increases with increasing amounts of alcohol.
  • Liver diseases, including: Alcoholic hepatitis; Cirrhosis, which is among the 15 leading causes of all deaths in the United States; Among persons with Hepatitis C virus, worsening of liver function and interference with medications used to treat this condition.

Prevention Works

Binge drinking and the harms that result from it can be prevented. Prevention strategies require action at individual and population levels and must consider ways to create community environments that discourage binge drinking by women and their families.

  • Avoid drinking alcohol if pregnant or planning to become pregnant
  • Choose not to binge drink and help others not to do it
  • Seek care from a health care provider for excessive drinking

 

For more information, please go to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.