Study finds 1 in 8 Americans struggles with alcohol abuse

Ebony Scott
August 11, 2017

The study, sponsored by a federal agency for alcohol research, examined how drinking patterns changed between 2002 and 2013, based on in-person surveys of tens of thousands of US adults. High-risk alcohol use, which the study's authors define as women consuming four or more drinks, or men consuming five or more drinks, on at least a weekly basis, had a relative increase of 29.9% in the total population, going from 9.7% in 2001 to 2002 to 12.6% in 2012 to 2013. But what's even more concerning is that "high-risk drinking" increased by nearly 30%, meaning more people were finding themselves having four or five - or more - drinks per day at least once a week.

The study found the number of American adults with an alcohol dependence increased nearly 50 percent during the period studied.

The study found the most substantial increases among women, older adults, racial and ethnic minorities and individuals with lower levels of education and income.

The juvenile drinking is on the rise in America and so is the consumption of alcohol by adults which has increased manifold.

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Among women, it rose about 58 percent; among older adults, it rose 65 percent. Between those two groups (about a decade apart from one another), the number of people who drank alcohol increased by 11%.

Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol (e.g., arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication). Survey respondents were considered to have alcohol use disorder if they met widely-used diagnostic criteria for either alcohol abuse or dependence. Among black people, it increased by 92.8 percent.

"If we ignore these problems, they will come back to us at much higher costs through emergency department visits, impaired children who are likely to need care for many years for preventable problems, and higher costs for jails and prisons that are the last resort for help for many", said UCSD psychiatrist Mark Schuckit in an editorial accompanying the study. And it's worrying, because older adults at are a high risk of death, injury or disease connected to alcohol use - from falls, for instance, or from adverse interactions between drugs and drinking. In other words, the women are just catching up to the men. A study shows that women form the larger part of the alcohol abuse.

Americans are drinking more. The researchers suggest that growing wealth inequality between whites and minorities may have led to "increased stress and demoralization", while educational, employment, housing and health disparities faced by non-white Americans may also lead to increased coping behaviors.

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