We live in a society where people get a lot of mixed messages about drinking. A lot of people have been led to believe that drinking, and often drinking a large amount, is part of having a good time. What we need to do is change the environment in which people make their drinking decisions.
A lot of people mistakenly assume that people who drink too much are alcoholics.
Binge drinking is defined for women as having four or more drinks on an occasion, and for men as having five or more drinks on an occasion. Eight or more drinks a week for women or 15 or more drinks a week for men is considered excessive. Any drinking by pregnant women or those under 21 is also considered excessive.
Alcoholism, however, is a chronic condition that usually includes a history of excessive drinking, a craving for alcohol, continued drinking despite repeated problems with alcohol and being unable to control drinking.
Alcohol kills 3.3 million people worldwide each year.
These deaths are caused by the long-term effects of drinking too much, such as breast cancer, liver disease and heart disease. Deaths also occur from the immediate effects of drinking, such as violence, alcohol poisoning and car crashes.
Rising wealth in emerging economies is also driving up alcohol consumption. Drinking is rising particularly fast as people earn more money.
On average, every person above the age of 15 worldwide drinks 6.2 liters of pure alcohol in a year, according to WHO report.
Abstinence especially among women, is most common in low-income countries, while religious belief and social norms mean many Muslim countries are virtually alcohol free.
To reduce excessive drinking could include increasing the cost of alcohol. People’s drinking behavior is very responsive to price. If alcohol is more expensive, people tend to drink less.
Another strategy is to limit the availability of alcohol by strictly controlling where people can buy alcohol.
In addition, doctors should be encouraged to screen their patients for excessive drinking and advise them to drink less.
Despite all of our awareness and strategies to target alcoholism, we are missing the majority of patients who battle with excessive alcohol consumption or a binge drinking problem.
Adults and teenagers often underestimate the amount they are drinking and put themselves in dangerous situations when they consume too much alcohol.
Screening and education are key to helping patients and families understand more about this and how they can stop it. Through these strategies, we can help detect a problem early on and prevent it from worsening.