New Guidelines Urge Docs to Screen All Adults for Alcohol Abuse

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Unhealthy alcohol use ranks as the third leading preventable cause of death in the US, with an estimated 88,000 people (roughly 62,000 men and 26,000 women) dying from alcohol-related causes annually. New guidelines by the United States Preventive Services Task Force hope to change this alarming stat.

The task force is urging all primary care physicians to give adults a “drinking checkup” during their annual visit to screen for unhealthy alcohol consumption, including alcohol abuse or dependency as well as risky drinking behavior. It’s also recommended that doctors offer brief counseling for those who admit to drinking above the recommended limit – no more than four drinks a day and 14 drinks per week for men and no more than three drinks per day and seven per week for women. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of spirits or liquor. Pregnant women, for which there is no safe level of alcohol, should also be screened, according to the task force statement.

A similar recommendation has been in place since 1996 and, in 1989, physicians were advised to ask patients to describe how they use alcohol – but “screening and brief intervention still remain quite low,” according to Angela Bazzi and Dr. Richard Saitz, both of Boston University School of Public Health. “For example, in the United States, 1 in 6 patients reports having discussed alcohol with their physician; rates in Europe are similarly low,” they wrote in an editorial published with the new guidelines in the medical journal JAMA.

Help for Alcohol Use Disorder
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol dependence or alcohol withdrawal, NorthStar Transitions can help. To learn more about our alcohol treatment center in Boulder, CO, call today: 303-974-7953.