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Alcohol Use

Excessive alcohol use is a common, costly, and deadly disorder in New Mexico. Every five hours, a New Mexican dies from an alcohol-related cause, including chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, alcohol-related motor vehicle crash, or another alcohol-related disorder.


Alcohol use may effect different people in different ways, depending on:
  • How much alcohol is consumed
  • How often alcohol is consumed
  • A persons age, medical history and family medical history
Two patterns of excessive alcohol use; excessive drinking and heavy drinking, are defined by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as follows:
  • Binge drinking: 4 or more drinks during a single occasion for women or 5 or more drinks during a single occasion for men
  • Heavy drinking: 8 or more drinks per week for women or 15 or more drinks per week for men.

Why It's Important

Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug in the United States, more than tobacco and illicit drugs. The effects of alcohol consumption have a very large impact on public health in the United States. Alcohol consumption was found to be the third leading lifestyle related cause of death in the United States. According to a recent study, 1 in 10 deaths among working age adults (20-64 years) is attributable to alcohol. The widespread use of this substance makes alcohol an important public health concern.

What Is Known

There are many health problems associated with excessive drinking and long term alcohol use.
  • Physiologically, alcohol use can cause illness and ailments to a person's body. Excessive alcohol use has been shown to be associated with increased risk of chronic diseases such as liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, liver cancers, and hypertension.
  • Excessive alcohol use has also been associated with increased risk of motor vehicle traffic crashes, falls, drowning, burns, homicide, suicide, firearm injuries, and other types of injury.
  • There are also several psychological disorders related to alcoholism, the most common of which is alcoholism. Alcoholism, also called alcohol dependence, is a disease that causes craving, loss of control, physical dependence, and tolerance to alcohol.

Who Is at Risk

Anyone who uses alcohol may be at risk for the adverse effects of alcohol use. Some people are more at risk for adverse effects of alcohol use than others. Additionally, factors such as age, gender, race/ ethnicity, physical condition, food consumption, family history and comorbid conditions may affect the way an individual reacts to alcohol. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Men were two times more likely to binge drink than women during the last 30 days.
  • Men consistently have higher rates of alcohol related deaths and hospitalizations than women.
  • Women who drink while pregnant have an increased risk of adverse outcomes for their pregnancy, such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and an increased risk of miscarriage.
  • Youth (under age 21) who drink are at a greater risk for several adverse consequences such as school problems, social problems, legal problems, physical problems, unwanted or unplanned sexual activity, disruption of normal growth, assault, injury, memory problems, abuse of other drugs, changes in brain development and death. About 90% of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.

Additionally, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that some people not drink at all, including:
  • Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant
  • Anyone under age 21
  • Persons dependent on Alcohol
  • Persons taking certain medications
  • Persons with certain medical questions.
The NIH recommends that persons with questions about whether it is safe to drink should consult their doctors.

How To Reduce Risk

The CDC makes several recommendations to prevent excessive alcohol use at a policy level, which include:
  • Regulation of Alcohol Outlet Density
  • Increasing Alcohol Taxes
  • Maintaining Limits on Days and Hours of Sale
  • Enhanced Enforcement of Laws Prohibiting Sales to Minors
  • Clinical best practices such as Screening and Brief Intervention (SBIRT) for Alcohol use and Abuse
The CDC recommends that individuals interested in preventing excessive alcohol use:
  • Choose not to drink or drink in moderation
  • Talk with healthcare providers about not drinking too much
  • Support effective community strategies to prevent excessive alcohol use.

How It's Tracked

Alcohol use is tracked at the national and state levels primarily through two surveys, morbidity and mortality data:
  • Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Adolescent and School Health.
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services.
  • Hospitalization, Emergency Department and other health care morbidity data.
  • National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and State Vital Records and Health Statistics registries are used to monitor alcohol related events in births and deaths.