Doctors Not Screening For Heavy Drinking
January 8, 2014

Heavy Drinking Not Being Screened For By US Doctors

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

According to a new report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 38 million Americans drink too much, and doctors are failing at finding out who they are.

The CDC says that doctors are failing to talk with their patients about their alcohol consumption to find out if they are drinking too much. The agency recommends that doctors, nurses and other health care professionals should be screening all adult patients and counseling those who drink too much.

According to the report, only one in six people have ever talked with their doctor or health professional about alcohol use. The CDC says talking with a patient about their drinking is the first step of screening and brief counseling. In order to open up this door of communication, doctors should use a set of questions to screen all patients for how much and how often they drink.

“Doctors and other health professionals can use alcohol screening and brief counseling to help people who are drinking too much to drink less,” the CDC said. “Drinking too much is dangerous and can lead to heart disease, breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, sudden infant death syndrome, motor-vehicle crashes, and violence.”

The agency said that simple alcohol screening and brief counseling session can reduce the amount of alcohol that individuals consume by as much as 25 percent in those who drink too much.

The CDC says the steps on alcohol screening include: asking a patient about their drinking; talking with patients about what they think is good and not good about their drinking; providing options such as asking the patient to cut down on alcohol consumption; and closing the discussion on good terms regardless of the patient’s response.

The report said that hospital staff should understand the majority of patients who drink too much need brief counseling do not necessarily need specialized alcohol treatment. Health professional organizations should also be teaching all its medical staff how to do alcohol screening and counseling, as well as provide e-tools to deliver these services to patients.

The 2010 US Dietary Guidelines for Americans on alcohol consumption recommends only moderate drinking, which is defined as one drink a day for women and two for men. An estimated 88,000 people die in the US each year from alcohol-related accidents or illness, costing the economy about $224 billion.

This report was based on 166,000 interviews in 44 states and the District of Columbia in 2011. The percentage of patients who discussed their drinking with a health care provider ranged from 8.7 percent in Kansas to 25.5 percent in Washington DC. The federal Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires new insurance plans to cover alcohol screening without co-pay.