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Alcohol abuse on the rise in the United States

A new study has revealed that alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and alcohol use disorders have increased in almost every sociodemographic group in the United States. This change was found to be particularly significant among women, older adults, minorities, and individuals with low educational levels and family income.

Monitoring trends in the prevalence of alcohol consumption is an important measure taken to help improve the overall health of the country. Tracking alcohol use patterns and the progression of alcohol use disorders is key to developing successful prevention and treatment programs.

An analysis led by Bridget F. Grant, Ph.D., of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism was based on statistics for 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. The data showed the changes in the percentages of alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and DSM-IV alcohol use disorder (AUD) over the course of the decade.

For the study, exceeding four or more standard drinks in a single day for women or five or more standard drinks in one day for men at least once a week over the last year constituted high-risk drinking. A DSM-IV diagnosis of AUD was assigned to individuals who met the criteria for alcohol dependence or abuse in the past year.

The investigation established that alcohol use in the United States increased by 11.2 percent from 2001-2002 to 2012-2013. High-risk drinking rose by 29.9 percent, and DSM-IV diagnosis of AUD increased by 49.4 percent.

Increases in every category of alcohol use were the highest among women, older adults, racial/ethnic minorities, and those with lower educational levels and family income. The study, published by JAMA Psychiatry, had some limitations including a lack of biological testing.

“These increases constitute a public health crisis that may have been overshadowed by increases in much less prevalent substance use (marijuana, opiates and heroin) during the same period,” explained the authors of the study.

“Most important, the findings herein highlight the urgency of educating the public, policymakers and health care professionals about high-risk drinking and AUD, destigmatizing these conditions and encouraging those who cannot reduce their alcohol consumption on their own, despite substantial harm to themselves and others, to seek treatment.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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