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Driving under the influence of alcohol kills more than 11,000 people in the United States annually. And the long-term heavy alcohol use can cause serious health conditions.

Each year, in Illinois there are more than 400 deaths due to alcohol-related accidents. Ronald Kanwischer, assistant professor of psychiatry and a substance abuse counselor at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, explains the alcohol level at which drivers are considered intoxicated.

[audio:siudrinkdrive1.mp3]Word from Kanwischer[/audio]

Kanwischer says there are serious legal and medical consequences to consuming alcohol and for driving under the influence. The most serious legal charges can carry a substantial fine. If the driver hurts another person, they can be sentenced to jail or even lose their license. From a medical perspective, long-term heavy alcohol use can cause health conditions such as cancer and liver failure. Kanwischer offers suggestions about drinking and driving.

[audio:siudrinkdrive2.mp3]Word from Kanwischer[/audio]

Kanwischer says eating helps absorb the alcohol, especially foods such as cheese and crackers. He urges people to celebrate responsibly. If someone has a drinking problem, they should see their primary care physician or mental health counselor.

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