Pharos-Tribune

Opinion

January 24, 2014

THEIR VIEW: Let's talk about drinking

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report this month says health care providers don’t talk enough about alcohol consumption, even with patients who drink too much. It’s a shortcoming harmful to our collective health.

More than half of all adults in the United States drink regularly, the report says. At least 38 million drink too much. Now the CDC finds alcohol screening and brief counseling are proven to lower the amount of alcohol drinkers consume on an occasion by 25 percent.

Because physicians always want the best for their patients, we’re guessing they’ll put this new advice into practice.

About 88,000 deaths each year across the nation can be attributed to excessive alcohol use. CDC officials point out that drinking can lead to many health and social problems, including heart disease, breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, fetal alcohol syndrome, motor-vehicle crashes and other violence.

The CDC defines a drink as 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spiritis or liquor. Binge drinking is consuming four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men within two to three hours. Even among adults who binge drink 10 or more times per month, only 1 in 3 were found to have talked to a health professional about their alcohol use, the CDC found. And talking, it said, is an important first step to real help.

Officials are optimistic that because alcohol screening and brief counseling can be covered by most health care plans without copay under the Affordable Care Act, more Americans may get this care soon.

Screening tools like one available through the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism use a set of questions to determine how much a patient drinks and whether the alcohol is causing impairment or distress. The institute’s tool also advises limits and establishes criteria for judging abuse and dependence, too.

This seems like simple and especially effective preventive medicine and those involved with health reform should ensure that physicians are properly rewarded for providing this care going forward.

— South Bend Tribune

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