A new report released by the Center for Disease Control reveals that at least 38 million Americans are binge drinkers and their doctors aren't talking with them about the dangers of their behavior.
According to the report released Tuesday, only one in six adults and one in fouir binge drinkers — meaning those who drink four or more drinks in a single sittin — have had a conversation with their doctors about their drinking habits.
“Alcohol causes more health and social problems than most people recognize, from problems with your liver to infections to risk of injury to a whole bunch of social problems, like problems at work,” CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden told NBC News. “A small conversation can make a big difference and help people reduce their alcohol use, but those conversations aren't happening.”
Studies link excessive alcohol use to 88,000 deaths a year in the United States and to an estimated cost of $224 billion for 2006, according to CDC researchers.
The new report was based on surveys completed by 166,753 adults from 44 states and the District of Columbia.
There are a number of reasons why doctors avoid the topic of alcohol use, CDC researchers found. Among them are lack of time and doubts about treatment effectiveness. Also, many doctors are embarrassed to bring up the topic of alcohol because they may be heavy drinkers themselves.
The CDC defines heavy drinking as 15 or more drinks a week for men and eight or more drinks a week for women. Many of these heavy drinkers aren't alcoholics, but even those who drink less than that per week might be in the health danger zone if they consume too much alcohol in a day: five or more drinks for men, four or more for women.