Heavy Drinking Linked to Variety of Health Woes

Heavy ‘hazardous’ drinking and drug use are associated with several serious health problems such as injuries, hypertension, pneumonia, depression, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, anxiety disorders and major psychoses, according to a new U.S. study.

“The World Health Organization defines ‘hazardous drinking’ as ‘alcohol consumption which confers the risk of physical and/or psychological harm,” study corresponding author Jennifer R. Mertens, a researcher with the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program’s division of research, said in a prepared statement.

“Hazardous drinking and drug use are much less severe, yet much more common, than dependence drinking. For example, a hazardous drinker might be someone who drank four or more times a week, drank three drinks on a typical day that they drank, and had a relative or friend, a doctor or other health worker express concern about their drinking or suggest they cut down in the past year,” Mertens said.

She her colleagues screened over 1, 400 primary-care patients in the Sacramento area for hazardous drinking and drug use.

“First, we found that one in 10 patients in private, primary-care clinics were either hazardous drinkers or drug users. This was consistent with an earlier study in similar primary-care clinics for privately insured patients,” Mertens said.

She noted that the prevalence of hazardous drinking and drug use among these primary-care patients was similar to the prevalence of hypertension and diabetes.

The researchers then identified the association between hazardous drinking and a number of serious health issues and psychiatric problems.

Screening patients for hazardous drinking and drug use could lead to interventions and health benefits for those individuals, Mertens said.

The findings appear in the June issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about the dangers of alcohol consumption.