Defining ‘Safe’ Alcohol Consumption

Nancy Reau, MD

Nancy Reau, MD

By Nancy Reau, MD

Statistics often feel unrelated to everyday life, however the recent BMJ report on the increasing incidence of alcohol-related liver disease in our younger population mirrors my real life experiences in clinical practice. In the last few months alone, I have seen an increase in young adults being admitted for alcohol-related liver injury.

Many of these young people struggle with depression or addiction and often use alcohol as a coping mechanism. While most recognize they’re drinking, they don’t realize how dangerous their habit has become until they present with jaundice, malnutrition and multi-organ failure. Unfortunately, what is often accompanied with the progression of liver disease, several of these young patients have died.

As both a parent and a physician, it is a challenge to care for these young patients who should have a long life ahead of them. But instead, I find myself speaking with their families about hospice and end-of-life arrangements. From my point of view, this means there is an urgent need for physicians to speak with their patients, especially those who are younger, about alcohol consumption. Alcohol is ever-present in our society, from advertising to social events, it’s around every turn. Meaning it is our responsibility to discuss what safe alcohol consumption really looks like with our patients and discuss it often.

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