U.S. doctors fail to discuss alcohol with patients: study
Send a link to a friend
[January 08, 2014]
By David Beasley
ATLANTA, Ga. (Reuters)
— Doctors are failing to
find out if their patients drink too much alcohol, despite evidence
that at least 38 million American adults consume an excessive
amount, a U.S. health agency said on Tuesday.
An estimated 88,000 people die in the United States
each year from drinking too much alcohol, but only one out of six
adults overall and one in four binge drinkers have discussed their
drinking habits with their doctors, according to a new study by the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
That practice needs to change, CDC Director Thomas Frieden said.
"It should be a part of routine patient care," Frieden said. "In the
same way we screen patients for high blood pressure, high
cholesterol, we should be screening for excess alcohol use."
The study's findings were based on 166,000 interviews in 44 states
and the District of Columbia in 2011. The percentage of patients who
had ever discussed their drinking with a health care provider ranged
from a low of 8.7 percent in Kansas to 25.5 percent in Washington,
Doctors are often too busy to screen patients for alcohol abuse and
may view treatment options as ineffective, the CDC said.
But asking patients about their alcohol use and then offering advice
on how to reduce it, or referring the most serious cases for
specialized treatment, can be effective in many cases, Frieden said.
"Counseling for five, 10, 15 minutes can result in a substantial
reduction in problem drinking," he said.
[to top of second column]
Drinking too much can increase chances of heart disease, liver
damage, breast cancer and other health problems, the CDC said.
The CDC defines binge drinking as five or more drinks in a few hours
for men and four or more for women. Adult men should average no more
than two drinks a day and women no more than one daily, the health
The federal Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires new insurance plans
to cover alcohol screening with no patient co-pay, Frieden said.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Chris
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.