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Of the 38 million Americans who “drink too much”, most aren’t even alcoholics says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Let’s start with what is considered a standard “drink.” According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), one drink amounts to 12 ounces of beer (341 ml), 5 ounces of wine (142 ml), or just 1.5 ounces (43 ml) of 80-proof spirits or hard liquor.

For reference, a can of Coca-Cola is only 12 ounces. A person is considered binge-drinking when they consume 5 or more drinks within a given event that lasts 2 to 3 hours for men, and only 4 or more drinks for women. Drinking too much during a given week is considered having fifteen or more drinks on average for men, while for women it’s 8 or more drinks.The other criteria are a bit more straight-forward: any drink consumed by a pregnant woman or underage person is also considered too much.

Okay, so what does it matter if people drink excessively? A great deal when you consider that because of these 38 million, 79,000 more people will suffer premature deaths, annually, due to heart disease, breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, motor-vehicle crashes, sudden infant death syndrome, and violence. And then, of course, there are the unintended pregnancies and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, for drinking mothers.

According to Catharine Paddock, PhD, author of an article recently released by Medical News Today:

Only 1 in 6 adults in the US has discussed [their drinking habits] with their health professional, and only 1 in 4 binge drinkers has talked about it. Even among those who binge drink 10 times or more a month, only a third has talked about the problem with their health professional.

But something can be done. According to the CDC, alcohol screening and brief counseling has proven to be the best method by which doctors and other health professionals can help these heavy drinkers help themselves. How? Doing so has shown as much as a 25% reduction in the amount of alcohol consumed by an individual binge-drinking during any given event.

Yet another reason to not become a statistic; clearly, now is not the time to dig your heels in.

Talk to your health care professional.