Binge Drinking: A Top Cause of Early Death in Workers

If someone you know is a heavy recreational drinker, there’s a sobering new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Working adults, ages 20 to 64, account for nearly 70 percent of all alcohol-related deaths, the CDC says.

“Excessive alcohol consumption is a leading cause of premature mortality in the United States,” the CDC reports in the June 26 issue of Preventing Chronic Diseases.  And alcohol abuse is “the fourth-leading preventable cause of death in the United States,” according to agency researchers. What’s more, excessive drinking is linked to other health and social problems.

When it comes to early deaths of working adults, one out of 10 deaths can be linked to alcohol, according to the CDC research study.  Regular episodes of binge drinking — especially on weekends — emerged as the primary culprit. 

“I’m not surprised,” says David Vittoria, assistant vice president of the Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center at South Miami Hospital. “More than 90 percent of the people who come to us for alcohol treatments are employed.”

The latest news from the CDC is based on an extensive project involving teams of researchers from the federal agency and regional health departments from around the country. Their conclusions are based on deaths that occurred from 2006 to 2010.

When does drinking become excessive?

  • Binge drinking is defined as more than five drinks for men and more than four drinks for women at a single occasion.
  • Heavy drinking:  more than 15 drinks a week for men, more than eight for women, and any alcohol consumption by pregnant women or underage drinkers.
  • What are the warning signs?

    Here are a few signs that binge or heavy drinking has become a problem for a worker, Mr. Vittoria says.

  • Excessive tardiness.
  • Frequent workplace injuries.
  • High absentees.
  • Frequently sick or under the weather.
  • DUI arrests or auto accidents.
  • How is help delivered?

    Sometimes, an individual recognizes the signs of trouble, which can come in the form of a poor performance evaluation at work, a traffic accident or the deterioration of relationships with co-workers or a spouse.   

    “Some sequence of biological, social or psychological factors can prompt someone to get help from a therapist or call us,” Mr. Vittoria says.

    In other cases, external forces or authorities may deliver ultimatums about entering a treatment program.

    “A spouse, an employer or a traffic court judge can deliver a dire message of: go to treatment or else lose a job, a marriage or your freedom,” Mr. Vittoria says. “Alcohol is a mind-altering chemical that can cost your life, job or marriage.”

    Related Stories:

    Women and Alcohol: The New Truths
    Know Your Limits 

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