Alcohol abuse, alcoholism and alcohol use disorder (AUD) kill over 3 million people2 each year, accounting for up to 6% of global deaths. Among American adults who consume alcohol at least once in their lifetime, 6.7% will develop AUD. Since 2020, 34.1% report binge drinking at least once and 7.0% report extreme binge drinking, raising alarms among healthcare professionals about the continued rise in liver disease.
Closer Look at Liver Disease
Alcohol misuse contributes to the rise in fatty liver diseases (FLD), including alcoholic liver disease (ALD) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is related to a build-up of extra fat in liver cells caused by lifestyle and dietary choices not related to alcohol. Together, NAFLD and ALD are among the most frequent causes3 of chronic liver disease4 in the United States and represent the leading indications for liver transplant.
Excessive drinking5 is defined as more than one drink per day for women and more than one or two drinks per day for men. It’s important to note that relatively mild damage can happen after a single binge drinking episode, but this reverses itself if the heavy alcohol use stops. If heavy drinking continues, however, liver damage can progress to several more advanced stages—and may lead to the need for a liver transplant.
Importance of Early Detection
Studies show6 that FibroScan®, a non-invasive technology that quickly provides a quantitative assessment of liver stiffness and liver fat at the point of care, is effective for assessing liver fibrosis in alcoholic patients and that instant screening of liver fibrosis in heavy drinkers is feasible without liver biopsy. FibroScan® makes it possible to quickly and non-invasively combat liver disease when caught early.
During Alcohol Awareness Month, we hope more people will join us in raising awareness about the dangers of alcohol and the importance of focusing on liver health for better quality of life.
1. Alcohol Awareness Month website: https://recovered.org/alcohol/alcohol-awareness-month
2. Alcohol Abuse Statistics, NCDAS National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, https://drugabusestatistics.org/alcohol-abuse-statistics/ consulted on March 30, 2022
3. M. Shadab Siddiqui, Michael Charlton, Liver Transplantation for Alcoholic and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Pretransplant Selection and Posttransplant Management, Gastroenterology, Volume 150, Issue 8,
2016, Pages 1849-1862, ISSN 0016-5085, https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2016.02.077.
4. Thomas Greuter, … , Gregory J. Gores, Vijay H. Shah, Therapeutic opportunities for alcoholic steatohepatitis and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis: exploiting similarities and differences in pathogenesis, JCI Insight. 2017;2(17):e95354. https://doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.95354.
5. Havard Health Publishing, Are you drinking too much alcohol?, November 1, 2019, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/are-you-drinking-too-much-alcohol
6.Nguyen-Khac E, Chatelain D, Tramier B, Decrombecque C, Robert B, Joly JP, Brevet M, Grignon P, Lion S, Le Page L, Dupas JL. Assessment of asymptomatic liver fibrosis in alcoholic patients using fibroscan: prospective comparison with seven non-invasive laboratory tests. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2008 Nov 15;28(10):1188-98. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2008.03831.x. Epub 2008 Aug 14. PMID: 18705692.