Binges, Blackouts, and the Risky Drinker

Posted on April 18, 2018

Alcohol use varies greatly among insurance applicants as does the impact on health and mortality. In North America, almost 100,000 deaths annually are attributed to alcohol and the cost is in excess of $250 billion*.

How much is too much is a perennial question and current thinking pegs healthy drinking at less than 14 drinks per week and less than 4 drinks in a single day. For women and adults 65 and older, 7 drinks per week and no more than 3 a day are recommended.

Consuming 5 drinks or more in a 2-3 hour stretch is considered binge drinking, increasing the risk for traumatic death as well as the long-term risk. Survival is also impacted if there is any history of blackouts related to alcohol use, particularly if there are at least two episodes in the file.

The bottom line – there is an established guideline for what constitutes a healthy use of alcohol. Underwriters start to pay attention when alcohol is consumed in excess of those guidelines and a history of bingeing or blackouts gets an extra, and deserved, amount of underwriting scrutiny.

*Source: Risky drinking and Alcohol Use Disorder. Jeanette M. Tetrault, MD, FACP & Patrick G. O’Connor, MD, MPH, Sept. 2017.