WEDNESDAY, Nov. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Excessive alcohol consumption -- a common problem during the holiday season -- can lead to serious injury and death, warns the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

The group urges people to use good judgment when they get together with family and friends.

"Very few things are more heartbreaking than to see a family suffer the loss of a loved one because of an alcohol-related tragedy, and during the holidays, people take risks. A fun holiday celebration can turn into a nightmare in the blink of an eye, and it can happen to anyone, and we don't want that to happen," Dr. Sandra Schneider, ACEP president, said in a society news release.

Each year in the United States, 79,000 deaths and many more injuries occur as a direct result of excessive alcohol consumption, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Alcohol-related injuries are not always driving-related incidents like some may assume. Emergency physicians have treated patients who have been seriously injured while decorating a home for the holidays," Schneider said.

These injuries can occur from falls while stringing lights on roofs, climbing ladders and using power tools incorrectly because of intoxication.

"These activities are dangerous under any circumstances. When you add alcohol to the mix, all of a sudden cognitive skills are lessened, personal judgments change, and your ability to think coherently is decreased," Schneider said.

Heavy drinking at this time of year can also cause "holiday heart syndrome," which is an irregular heartbeat in otherwise healthy people.

But the major concern during the holidays, and throughout the year, is drunk driving.

"Drunk driving is 100 percent preventable. Don't get behind the wheel of a car if you've had too much to drink. You are not only a danger to yourself, but also to everyone else on the road," Schneider said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about alcohol and public health.