01/07/2014 01:10 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Not Enough Doctors Are Talking To Their Patients About Alcohol Use, Report Finds

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Doctors aren't talking to their binge-drinking patients enough about alcohol use, according to a new government report.

Just one in four binge drinkers reports that a health professional has talked to him or her about alcohol use, the latest Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. And just one in three frequent binge drinkers (people who binge drink 10 or more times each month) says a health professional has talked with him or her about alcohol use.

In general, only one in six adults says a health professional has talked to him or her about alcohol use, the report said. And just 17 percent of pregnant women reported that a health professional talked to them about alcohol use.

The new findings are based on data from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which involved adults ages 18 and older from 44 states and Washington, D.C.

"Drinking too much alcohol has many more health risks than most people realize," Dr. Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC, said in a statement. "Alcohol screening and brief counseling can help people set realistic goals for themselves and achieve those goals. Health care workers can provide this service to more patients and involve communities to help people avoid dangerous levels of drinking."

For women, binge drinking is defined as having four or more drinks (5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor) in a two- to three-hour period; for men, it's having five or more drinks in the same time period. In general, moderate drinking is considered up to one drink a day for women, and up to two drinks a day for men. Excessive drinking is linked to a number of health problems, including alcohol abuse or dependence, injuries (like car accidents from drunk driving), and diseases (such as cancer, liver cirrhosis and high blood pressure).