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Alcohol use, abuse on the rise in the United States

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HealthDay News
Researchers say that more Americans are using and abusing alcohol, with rates among women increasing the most in recent years. File photo by Billie Jean Shaw/UPI
Researchers say that more Americans are using and abusing alcohol, with rates among women increasing the most in recent years. File photo by Billie Jean Shaw/UPI

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 9, 2017 -- Rates of drinking and alcohol abuse are increasing in the United States, especially among certain groups of people, a new study suggests.

"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," the study authors wrote.

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Bridget Grant, of the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and colleagues found that the rate of alcohol use in the United States was 65 percent in 2001-2002. By 2012-2013, it was nearly 73 percent.

The rate of high-risk drinking was about 10 percent, or 20 million people, in 2001-2002. But by 2012-2013, the rate was nearly 13 percent, or almost 30 million people.

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In the study, high-risk drinking was defined as four or more standard drinks on any day for women, and five or more standard drinks on any day for men. To qualify as high-risk drinking, however, those daily drinking totals need to have occurred at least weekly during the past 12 months.

In addition, the investigators found that rates of alcohol use disorder -- sometimes called "alcoholism" -- rose from 8.5 percent (about 18 million people) in 2001-2002 to 13 percent, or nearly 30 million people, in 2012-2013.

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Increases in rates of alcohol use, high-risk drinking and alcohol use disorder were greatest among women, the study authors found. Other groups that saw significant increases included: older adults; racial/ethnic minorities; and Americans with lower levels of education and income.

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The findings "highlight the urgency of educating the public, policymakers and health care professionals about high-risk drinking and alcohol use disorder, 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," Grant and her colleagues concluded.

The study was published Aug. 9 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

More information

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The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about alcohol.

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