Alcohol use on the rise in U.S.

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In the latest issue of the journal JAMA Psychiatry Bridget F. Grant and colleagues have reported that alcohol use is rising at an alarming rate in the United States. Both the health and cost implications of this are huge. Opioid related deaths have already made headlines and their rise is accompanied by other substance use feel health officials.

Image Credit: Voyagerix / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Voyagerix / Shutterstock

Grant and colleagues write that between the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions evaluations in 2001-2002 and in 2012-2013 the increase in alcohol use has been significant. The study looked at a large sample of nationally representative participants 18 years and older and conducted interviews with all individuals about their alcohol use habits. The study included two national surveys - National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions with 43 093 adults and the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III with 36 309 adults. Data was collected from April 2001 to June 2002 for National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions and from April 2012 to June 2013 for National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III. Data were analyzed in November and December 2016.

High-risk drinking was defined as 5 drinks per occasion for men (4 for women) at least weekly. One standard drink means 14 g of ethanol. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical manual (DSM-IV) alcohol use disorders (AUDs) were defined for this study.

The results showed that there is a significant rise in alcohol use over the last few years in three categories – last 12 month drinking, high risk drinking and AUDs. The largest increase was in AUDs that rose from 8.5% in 2001/2002 to 12.7% in 2012-13. This rise was by 49.4%. This was an overall view and included even those who were on remissions. Scientists write that those with AUDs may not be just a current problem. They may be likely to have raised health care costs in future too. Their risk for heart disease, cancers and other major illnesses remains throughout life the researchers explain.

For women the rise in AUDs is also significantly high - an 83.7% increase in AUDs over the 11 years says this study. African American individuals have shown a whopping 92.8% increase in AUDs. Persons between ages of 45 years and 64 years and those 65 years and older, show a rise of 81.5% and 106.7% increases in AUDs respectively over this decade. Those with only high school educations notably show a 57.8% increase in AUDs and those with incomes less than $20 000 show a 65.9% increase in AUDs. High-risk drinking too rose from 9.7% to 12.6% (a change of 29.9%) in this period with each of the above subgroups being leaders in drinking. Number of drinkers rose from 65.4% to 72.7% (an enhancement of 11.2%). Overall, 12-month alcohol use rose by 11.2%, high-risk drinking by 29.9% and DSM-IV alcohol use disorder by 49.4% for the total US population.

These results corroborate with other national surveys too. Especially the rise of drinking among subgroups, especially women, older adults, racial/ethnic minorities and those who are socioeconomically backward are a cause for concern as this could lead to a major public health crisis unless controlled. With time this can give rise to major diseases and illnesses that arise out of alcohol misuse.


Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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