A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds overindulging in alcohol leads to about 88,000 deaths every year in people 20-64.
"We did not expect the magnitude of the number of deaths among working-age adults. Again, these are people in their prime time," said Dafna Kanny, who co-authored the study.
Researchers found heavy drinking shortened lives by about 30 years because of the long-term effects.
"Drinking too much alcohol over time can cause diseases like breast cancer, liver disease and cardiovascular or heart disease," Kanny said.
Scientists also counted alcohol-related violence, injuries and traffic accidents in their report.
Experts consider excessive drinking eight or more beverages a week for women and 15 or more a week for men.
The CDC describes excessive drinking as a "pattern of drinking," while alcohol dependence is a chronic disease. The CDC emphasizes the vast majority of people who do drink excessively are not alcoholics.
Dr. Yvonne Rodriguez of Kaiser Permanente works in addiction medicine. She says, "The majority of patients say, 'Oh, I drink socially.' It's much important to ask, 'How many drinks is considered social for you? And how often are you drinking?'"
Rodriguez encourages patients to be honest with their doctors so that those who need treatment get it.
The CDC study found New Mexico had the highest number of alcohol-attributed deaths. Maryland had the lowest. And men drink more excessively than women at a rate of 2 to 1.
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