Medicine

Alcohol abuse at 'alarming' levels in the US

Alcohol abuse at 'alarming' levels in the US

The United States has a serious drinking problem.

The study noted that the increase in high-risk and problem drinking among older adults is "unprecedented".

Experts at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism say that the rise could constitute a public health crisis that is being overshadowed by the opioid epidemic and marijuana legalization.

High-risk drinking, in this study, referred to women drinking four or more drinks in a day, or men drinking five or more drinks in a day, on a weekly basis.

Americans are drinking more than they used to - a lot more. The number of adults who suffered from an alcohol abuse or dependence grew from 17.6 million to 29.9 million over that decade.

Male high risk drinking increased by 15% and alcoholism by 35%, while female high-risk drinking increased by 58% and alcoholism by 84%. This is especially true among women, older adults, racial/ethnic minorities, and the socioeconomically disadvantaged. Stunningly, almost 1 in 4 adults under age 30 (23.4 percent) met the diagnostic criteria for alcoholism.

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And among older adults, abuse and dependence more than doubled.

Survey respondents were asked about the number of drinks they had per day, how many times they consumed alcohol during the week, and whether or not they had been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Adults over 65 years in age also saw a pretty big jump - a 65% increase, in fact. Nearly every argument used against legalizing marijuana can be used against alcohol. The disorder is determined by such symptoms as alcohol interfering with a person's home or work life, suffering withdrawal symptoms after abstaining from alcohol and being unable to cut down on or stop drinking, among others. Among black people, it increased by 92.8 percent. In the new study, the authors found that deaths from alcohol-related cirrhosis rose dramatically between 2009 and 2013 for the first time since the 1970s. Heavy alcohol use may also be contributing to a slowdown in the decline of death rates from cardiovascular diseases.

"The results of this study call for a broader effort to address the individual, biological, environmental and societal factors that influence high-risk drinking and [alcohol use disorder] and their considerable consequences and economic costs to society ($250 billion) to improve the health, safety and well-being of the nation", the authors, Bridget F. Grant, S. Patricia Chou and Tulshi D. Saha, wrote in the study.

The study found that rates of alcoholism were higher among men (16.7 percent), Native Americans (16.6 percent), people below the poverty threshold (14.3 percent), and people living in the midwest (14.8 percent). Interventions can help limit binge drinking and lower drinking rates during pregnancy, which can have a significant impact on health, he wrote. In Canada, there is a minimum price for alcohol, and when that price has gone up, health problems and hospitalizations related to alcohol have gone down, he says. "Policymakers and health professionals need to be aware of this, too". Plus, the authors also highlighted the financial burden that's associated with heavy drinkers. "Clearly, alcohol does not get the necessary attention given the problems it causes", says Rehm.

Hasin and colleagues found that the rate of alcohol use in the US was 65 percent in 2001-2002, and by 2012-2013 it had increased to 73 percent.


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