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December 27, 1993

How Much Is Too Much?Advising Patients About Safe Levels of Alcohol Consumption

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Medicine (Drs Bradley and Larson) and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences (Dr Donovan) and Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute (Dr Donovan), University of Washington, Seattle; the Section of General Internal Medicine and the Northwest Health Services Research and Development Program (Dr Bradley) and Addictions Treatment Center, Seattle Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Dr Donovan).

Arch Intern Med. 1993;153(24):2734-2740. doi:10.1001/archinte.1993.00410240036004

United States physicians are increasingly encouraged to advise patients about health-related behaviors, such as smoking, but there is minimal discussion in the US medical literature about the need to advise patients about safe levels of alcohol consumption. Several factors likely contribute to this lack of focus on safe drinking practices. These include the complex relationship between drinking and health, limitations in the available epidemiologic data, misinterpretation of the disease model of alcoholism, and physician attitudes. Nevertheless, epidemiologic evidence clearly relates increasing levels of alcohol consumption to increased morbidity and mortality, and research has shown that physician advice can reduce both alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems. We propose that physicians thoroughly assess patients' alcohol consumption and advise patients who drink about safe levels of consumption.

(Arch Intern Med. 1993;153:2734-2740)