The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that excessive alcohol use causes one in 10 deaths amon adults ages 20- to 64-years-old. At 88,000 deaths per year between 2006 and 2010, it is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in that age group.
Additionally, the CDC notes that, although drinking under the age of 21 is illegal, people between the ages of 12 and 20 consume 11 percent of all alcohol ingested in the United States. Excessive drinking in the underage population accounts for 4,300 deaths annually.
While the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) cites some benefits from moderate alcohol consumption — decreased risk for heart disease, decreased risk of ischemic stroke and decreased risk of diabetes — it indicates that 47 percent of the 78,529 liver-disease deaths in 2015 were alcohol-related.
Moreover, drinking alcohol increases the risks of cancer in the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, and breast.
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The impact of excessive alcohol consumption goes beyond just the pathophysiology of the human body. The Missouri Highway Patrol reports that 19 percent (162) of all fatal crashes it investigated in 2016 involved alcohol, including prom season (April and May) and the winter holiday season (November and December).
By law, drivers having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher are considered alcohol impaired.
According to the Missouri Department of Revenue web site, a first-time BAC or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) conviction will result in a 90-day suspension. A second conviction will result in a one-year license revocation and possibly a five-year license denial. Three or more convictions for an intoxication-related traffic offense will result in a ten-year license denial.
Fatalities occurring in alcohol-related crashes may result in a charge of involuntary manslaughter for an alcohol-impaired driver.
What is the difference between moderate and excessive alcohol intake? According to https://health.gov, moderate drinking is defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
Excessive drinking includes four categories:
▪ Binge drinking: consumption of four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men, all within about two hours;
▪ Heavy alcohol use: consumption of four or more drinks on any day or eight or more drinks weekly for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men;
▪ Drinking by pregnant women;
▪ Drinking by those under 21 years of age.
Unsure if your drinking is a problem, www.HelpGuide.org recommends asking yourself the following questions. Do you:
▪ Feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking?
▪ Lie to others or hide your drinking habits?
▪ Have friends or family members who are worried about your drinking?
▪ Regularly drink more than you intend to?
▪ Repeatedly neglect responsibilities at home, work, or school because of drinking?
▪ Use alcohol in situations where it is physically dangerous, such as operating machinery or mixing alcohol with prescription medications?
▪ Continue to drink even though it is causing problems in relationships?
▪ Use alcohol to self-soothe and relieve stress?
If you answer yes to any of these questions and feel you need help with excessive alcohol use, or if you know someone who does, reach out for help. For more information, contact the ReDiscover intake line at (816) 966-0900.
As we approach fall and winter social events, like tailgating and holiday parties, be mindful of your alcohol consumption. Appoint a designated driver, be a designated driver, take a taxi, or call a sober friend for a ride.
Stay legal. Stay safe.
Author Rhonda Canning, BSN, RN-BC, is the director of Health Care Home, a program of Rediscover Mental Health. She also serves as a member of Lee’s Summit’s Health Education Advisory Board, a mayor-appointed, volunteer board that promotes and advocates community health by assessing health issues, educating the public and government agencies, developing plans to address health issues, encouraging partnerships and evaluating the outcomes.