Alcohol accounts for one in 10 working-age deaths nationwide, mostly men, and cuts lives short by as many as three decades, federal health officials reported Thursday.
Bingeing, partying, frequent cocktails, drinking alone, all played into a complex mosaic that defines Americans' relationship with booze, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered in a scientific analysis.
For Long Island, the study's release has led to concerns about the rising alcohol content in drinks and comes amid a complicated statistical portrait of substance abuse and driving while intoxicated.
Last month, Nassau County officials reported DWI arrests had fallen dramatically over the past three years, leading to concerns that too many drivers were getting away with the crime.
Nassau police made an average of 2,641 DWI arrests annually between 2008 and 2011, the year the county disbanded its DWI enforcement team. But declining arrests encouraged officials to re-establish its special unit.
The Suffolk County Police Department, which maintains a DWI-enforcement team, saw a smaller decrease in DWI arrests than did Nassau. Suffolk's arrests went from 3,256 in 2011 to 3,062 in 2012 to 2,846 last year.
"Even one alcohol-related crash is too many," Suffolk County Deputy Chief Kevin Fallon said Thursday when asked about the CDC study, which covered the years 2006 to 2010.
It revealed that people are dying in the prime of life, between 20 and 64, as a direct consequence of alcohol-related disorders, drinking-associated violence and vehicular crashes.
"It's shocking to see the public health impact of excessive drinking on working-age adults," said Dr. Robert Brewer, one of the report's authors and head of the CDC's alcohol program.
Bingeing, he said, was defined as four or more drinks on a single occasion for women; five or more for men. Heavy drinking was defined as eight or more drinks a week for women and 15 or more for men. Any alcohol use while pregnant was considered excessive and the same standard held for those younger than 21.
In response, a Long Island expert who treats patients battling substance abuse called on bars as well as the restaurant, wine, spirits and beer industries to tell unwitting drinkers the truth: The size of alcoholic beverage glasses in numerous establishments has grown in recent years -- and the alcohol content of certain drinks has crept up, too.
"Some people have no idea how much alcohol they are consuming," said Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in Mineola.
"Increasingly, we see restaurants and bars offering larger portions," he said. "Bars are offering craft beers that have higher alcohol content."
Reynolds said more establishments are offering "two-fers and three-fers," referring to business strategies aimed at giving customers multiple drinks for the price of one.
For some wines, alcohol content also has been rising over the years, from 12.5 percent, Reynolds said, to anywhere between 14 and 18 percent. Popular supersized wineglasses, he said, hold the equivalent of 2.5 drinks.
"Alcohol has an effect on every one of our major organs," Reynolds said, adding that youngsters who start drinking as teens are more likely to become addicted than those waiting until 21.
At the Long Island Center for Recovery in Hampton Bays, Jim Amend said his facility treats more clients with multiple chemical dependencies.
"We're seeing an increase in the overall addiction to alcohol along with other substances," he said. "We also have an epidemic of opiate use on Long Island and a lot of people are using alcohol in conjunction with other substances."
In the CDC analysis, New York's overall death toll related to alcohol was 4,011. The state ranked 48th nationally in working-age death rate attributable to alcohol at 7.9 percent.
CDC investigators divided alcohol's toll between long-term effects and short-term dangers.
Over the long haul, drinking can lead to breast cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and a host of liver disorders, including liver cancer. Dangers such as alcohol-related homicides and vehicular crashes also raise serious public health and safety concerns, researchers said.
The states with the highest percentage of deaths of people aged 20-64 attributable to alcohol
New Mexico 16.4%
New York 7.9%
U.S. average 9.8%