Statistics on too much alcohol consumption usually are reported in the media in terms of the effects on the person (impaired driving) or the body (health problems). Ad campaigns and public service announcements remind consumers to drink responsibly. But just how much alcohol is too much'

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heavy drinking is defined as consuming more than "two drinks per day on average for men and one drink per day for women." Binge drinking is defined as consuming "five or more drinks in a single occasion for men and four or more drinks for women." In 2008, the CDC estimates five percent of the U.S. adult population (age 21 and older) drank heavily, while 15 percent binge drank. Between the years 2001 and 2005, the CDC attributed 79,000 deaths to excessive alcohol use - the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States. In 2005, there were more than 1.6 million hospitalizations and more than four million emergency room visits for alcohol-related conditions.

Underage consumption of alcohol (below age 21) is also problematic in the United States. For example, the CDC estimates underage drinking (age 12-20) accounts for 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States; 90 percent of underage drinking is done in the form of binge drinking and is highest in the 18- to 20-year-old group (51 percent. In 2005, 145,000 emergency room visits were due to underage consumption of alcohol.

Rates of alcohol consumption for Department of Defense personnel are measured by the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test. Overall binge drinking rates increased between 1998 and 2008. Heavy drinking rates in the military for persons aged 18-25 are 26 percent as compared to 16 percent for civilians in the same age group. Heavy drinking across all age groups is higher for military personal (20 percent) as compared to civilians (14 percent). For the Army, heavy drinking was 22 percent.

According to the DOD, "nearly one-quarter of all heavy drinkers had one or more serious consequences (23 percent), a rate that was three to six times as high as that for any other group of drinkers." Serious consequences include, "time away from work due to alcohol use; arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol; getting into fights; causing an accident or illness and receiving a low performance rating.

For the Army, among heavy drinkers, the rate of serious consequences was 25 percent.

Here are some suggestions from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to reduce excessive alcohol consumption:
1) Pace yourself-sip slowly.
2) Consume non-alcoholic drinks when drinking alcohol as well.
3) Don't drink on an empty stomach.
4) Know your triggers and avoid them.
5) Reach out to friends or family if feeling overwhelmed (triggered) or seek professional help.

For more information on reducing alcohol consumption:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/index.htm.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/quickstats/underage_drinking.htm

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Tips/tips.htm

Page last updated Thu March 31st, 2011 at 15:34