WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Some local physicians weren't surprised by the results of a Centers for Disease Control study showing one in 10 deaths among working-age adults (20-64) is caused by excessive alcohol use.
“When we’re talking about treating alcohol use it starts first with educating patients on what’s a relatively safe quantity and educating folks on how it can be a problem if it goes beyond what we consider to be the recommended limits,” said Dr. Daren Wu, chief medical officer at Open Door Family Medical Centers in Port Chester.
From 2006 to 2010, excessive alcohol use led to about 88,000 deaths per year and shortened the lives of those who died by about 30 years, according to the study, published last month in the journal, Preventing Chronic Disease.
Alcohol wears down the body and can lead to long-term health problems, as well as short-term consequence like impaired driving, alcohol poisoning and violence, the study said.
Excessive alcohol use is defined as eight or more drinks in a week for women and 14 or more for men. Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks in one sitting for women or five or more for men.
Dr. Kevin Maloney, who has a family practice in Mamaroneck, said he isn’t shocked by those numbers.
“It makes sense because it depresses certain systems in your body like your liver and your kidneys that clean out toxins,” he said.
Wu understands the social benefits of alcohol use, but said it can be habit forming for those prone to addiction. Once the habit is formed, he said it’s a challenge to break it because it’s both a medical and mental illness.
“It’s not just a habit that people can snap their fingers and snap out of,”Wu said. “It’s a real bonafide disease. It’s really hard to quit. It’s a downward spiral unless its taken care of correctly.”
Most Americans will have a drink or two during the week and then have the same or a little more on the weekends, Wu said.
However, his practice serves a large immigrant population from South and Central America that doesn’t typically drink at all during the week, but then has 10-20 drinks in one day on the weekends.
“It is an endemic issue with our male population,” he said.
Wu said his office is focusing on educating patients about the dangers of excessive drinking, which the CDC is also working on at the national level.
The study's recommendations included increasing alcohol taxes, regulating alcohol outlet density, and avoiding further privatization of alcohol retail sales.
Read the full study here.