Americans and Drinking — CDC Tells Doctors to Ask Patients About Their Drinking
You see it again and again: celebrities and other people making the news for drinking and bad behavior . Their behavior and exploits may be embarrassing to watch, but they call attention to people who drink to excess, and often take other drugs. A few who’ve been in the news lately include the mayor of Toronto, Justin Bieber, and Florida Congressman Trey Radel. He resigned after he was charged with buying cocaine, but said he struggles with alcoholism.
In January, the “CDC warn[ed] doctors to look out for 38 million heavy drinking Americans,” or so said CBS News. Several years ago I read that doctors were being trained to have a short screening talk with their patients about the amount they drink, but apparently not enough of them were getting the message or the training wasn’t widespread enough. And it’s important, Dr. Tom Frieden, the CDC Director said. Studies have shown that alcohol screening and counseling can “reduce alcohol intake by 25 percent among heavy drinkers.”
One morning early in February, my local paper had an article on a fight against a SECOND Oxford House in my area. (Recently I included another one in a post.) This is a national group of sober living houses. Residents were complaining that this latest one is too close to a school and pondered such questions as what if students wandered onto their grounds or the residents of this halfway house got onto school grounds? The people who spoke out didn’t criticize the Oxford House residents per se, but you know that if they were being truthful, they would have some harsh, discriminating thoughts. I hope someone tried to educate them about addiction being a disease, with relapse an unfortunate part (as we saw once again with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death.).
The hypocrisy of residents speaking out is that alcoholism and drug abuse exist in many homes. The executive next door, the middle manager down the street, and the kid who’s a fast-food worker on your block could all have a serious problem. As I mention in another post, TV news station CNN mentioned recently that a McDonald’s worker in PA was selling heroin from the drive-thru window. The code words were “I want to buy a toy.” Drug abuse is so rampant that to complain about a group that is helping people try to get their life back is really low.
Back to the CBS news article about the CDC and drinking. Only 1 in 6 Americans surveyed said that their doctor had asked them about their drinking, and only one in four binge drinkers had ever actually discussed their drinking with their doctor. Recall that binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks over two or three hours for women, and five drinks for men. Here’s a CDC fact sheet on binge drinking. The article also pointed out that alcohol screening and counseling is covered by most health insurance plans free of charge under the Affordable Care Act (Most? What about the parity act?).
Here’s an ABC news article with 6 Signs You Drink Too Much. And to learn about a couple of women in AA thinking that they’re sober –they’ve stopped drinking –even though they’re now smoking pot, check out one of my earlier posts, “Smoking Pot in AA.”