April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Posted on 9 Apr, 2018 |comments_icon 0|By Elizabeth

Know the Facts. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):

  • 4 percent of people 18 or older in the U.S. reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime.
  • 9 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month.
  • An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
  • 7 million people ages 12–20 reported drinking alcohol in the past month.
  • More than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems.

Alcohol affects every organ in the body. It is a central nervous system depressant that is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream. Because the liver can only metabolize a small amount of alcohol at a time, excess alcohol circulates throughout the body with an intensity of effect directly related to the amount of alcohol consumed.

What is the Medical Criteria for Alcohol Dependency?

Signs and symptoms of a severe alcohol use disorder could include:

  • Inability to limit drinking.
  • Continuing to drink despite personal or professional problems.
  • Needing to drink more to get the same effect.
  • Wanting a drink so badly you can’t think of anything else.

What Health Problems are Associated with Excessive Alcohol Use?

Excessive drinking in the form of heavy drinking or binge drinking is associated with numerous health problems, including:

  • Chronic diseases such as liver cirrhosis (damage to liver cells); pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas); various cancers, including liver, mouth, throat, larynx (the voice box), and esophagus; high blood pressure; and psychological disorders
  • Unintentional injuries, such as motor-vehicle traffic crashes, falls, drowning, burns, and firearm injuries
  • Violence, such as child maltreatment, homicide, and suicide
  • Harm to a developing fetus if a woman drinks while pregnant, such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Alcohol use disorders

Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation

Alcohol consumption affects people differently, depending on a number of factors, such as:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Physical condition (e.g. weight, fitness level)
  • Amount of food consumed before drinking
  • How quickly the alcohol was consumed
  • Use of drugs or prescription medicines
  • Family history of alcohol problems

Because our bodies change as we age, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends that people over 65 should have no more than seven drinks a week, and no more than three drinks in a single day.

What is “1 Drink”?

  • 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content)
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content)
  • 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content)
  • 5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)

One 12-ounce beer has about the same amount of alcohol as one 5-ounce glass of wine or 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. It’s the amount of alcohol consumed that most affects a person, not the type of alcoholic drink.

Screening and Counseling for Alcohol Misuse

For adults who do not meet the medical criteria for alcohol dependency but struggle to limit alcohol consumption to recommended parameters of moderation, Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers alcohol misuse screening and counseling once per year. (For more information, watch this video.)

Who’s Eligible?

Adults with Part B (including pregnant women) can get the screening if these apply:

  • Patient uses alcohol.
  • patient doesn’t meet the medical criteria for alcohol dependency.

Patient can get 4 brief face-to-face counseling sessions per year if these apply:

  • Patient’s primary care doctor determines that the patient is misusing alcohol.
  • Patient is competent and alert during counseling.

The counseling must be provided:

  • By a qualified primary care doctor or other primary care practitioner
  • In a primary care setting (like a doctor’s office)

Costs in Original Medicare

Patients pay nothing if the qualified primary care doctor or other primary care practitioner accepts assignment.

Learn More

Stay up to date with TCI’s best-selling Medicare Compliance and Reimbursement Insider 2018. Jam-packed with best-in-class advice and high-impact tips, this indispensable resource will equip you to avoid underpayments, lock down compliance, safeguard against ransomware, and boost your bottom line.



Elizabeth works on an array of projects at TCI, researching and writing about modern reimbursement challenges. Since joining TCI in 2017, she has also covered the nuts and bolts of cybersecurity, compliance with federal laws, and how to tap into the advantages of telehealth services.

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