Alcohol Education Lags For Both Patients, Doctors

Created: 01/09/2014 10:52 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- According to the Centers for Disease Control, only one in six people say their doctor has ever talked to them about alcohol use.

For binge drinkers its one in four despite research showing brief alcohol counseling can reduce consumption by nearly 25 percent.

"Questions are asked, 'How much do you drink?' But providers and nurses don't have enough training yet, or some of this specific training on how to have that conversation,” said Larry Blair, director of the Fountain Center treatment center in Albert Lea.

Experts say many people are unaware of how even casual drinking can negatively impact their health, saying simple education can help decrease chances for heart disease, breast cancer, and other illnesses.

"Being able to address some of these issues early is going to have a tremendous impact on the individual, on their health, but also on the cost of healthcare,” Blair said.

But there is good news.

Minnesota is starting to offer grants to primary care providers to teach doctors how to talk to patients about alcohol use so they’re more aware of the dangers.

"One of the exciting things that's happening is primary care is aware of this themselves and there's a lot of movement on addressing this,” Blair said. “The earlier we can address any issue, the better the outcome is."

According to the CDC at least 38 million Americans drink too much, the majority of whom are not alcoholics.

That excess drinking causes an estimated 88,000 deaths each year and results in over $200 billion in unnecessary costs.