Communities Could Curb Binge Drinking

Alcohol poisoning deaths tied to binge drinking high in US, especially among middle aged men

(RxWiki News) Just after the revelry of New Year's Eve, some sobering news came to light about alcohol consumption in the US. Experts are stressing the importance of community efforts to curb binge drinking.

A new study, led by Dafna Kanny, PhD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that rates of death from alcohol poisoning were high in the US, particularly among middle-aged men. But alcohol poisoning is a highly preventable problem.

"Binge drinking appears to be on the rise in this country and has serious implications as reported in this article," said David Winter, MD, Chief Clinical Officer, President, and Chairman of the Board of HealthTexas Provider Network (HTPN).

"It appears that many of these folks are not ‘alcoholics’ in the traditional sense of the term but nonetheless face similar risky behavior that can result in death," said Dr. Winter, who was not involved in this study. "It is incumbent on those in health care to spread the news about this."

Dr. Kanny and colleagues found that around six deaths a day in the US were due to alcohol poisoning.

When a large amount of alcohol is consumed in a short amount of time — called binge drinking — alcohol poisoning can occur. Alcohol poisoning can cause areas of the brain that control things like heart rate, body temperature and breathing to shut down.

Having four or more drinks for women in a short amount of time, or five or more drinks for men, is typically considered binge drinking. The CDC noted that, in an effort to address this problem, health care professionals can screen patients for binge drinking and provide counseling against the practice.

The CDC also recommended that people avoid alcoholic drinks that have an unclear or unknown content, and those mixed with energy drinks.

"Caffeine can mask alcohol's effects and cause people to drink more than they intend," the CDC wrote.

Dr. Kanny and team noted that efforts on the state or community level, like managing the number of stores that sell alcohol in concentrated areas, have been shown to decrease alcohol-related health problems.

This study was published Jan. 6 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Dr. Kanny and team disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 7, 2015