Alcohol abuse at ‘alarming’ levels in the US

The number of Americans abusing alcohol has risen to dangerous levels according to a new study, with alcoholism among women rising by 84%.

The study, published in Jama Psychiatry, examined drinking patterns between 2002 and 2013 based on surveys of tens of thousands of American adults.

In that time period, alcohol use among adults increased from 65% to 72%, and high-risk drinking from 9% to 12.6%, suggesting that nearly 30 million Americans now suffer from alcohol addiction.

The increase in alcoholism was more pronounced among women, racial minorities, older adults, people on low incomes and people living in urban areas.

Between 2002 and 2013, overall drinking increased by 11%, while ‘high risk’ drinking (four or more alcoholic drinks a day) rose by 30%, more than doubling to 65% in older adults.

Male high risk drinking increased by 15% and alcoholism by 35%, while female high-risk drinking increased by 58% and alcoholism by 84%.

Sponsored by a federal agency for alcohol research, the results suggest that the country is in the midst of a “public health crisis” according to the researchers.

Previous research showed steady or declining drinking patterns from the 1970s through to the 1990s, when alcohol consumption increased.

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

Researchers believe stress may be the key cause of the alarming rise in drinking levels.

The Distilled Spirits Council has hit out at the study, arguing that there has been a decline in alcohol use disorders and that the findings do not match up with the results of the government-lead National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

“While any amount of alcohol abuse is too much, the claims published in Jama Psychiatry do not comport with findings of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the federal government’s leading survey that tracks substance use disorders,” said Dr Sam Zakhari, Distilled Spirits Council senior vice president and former division director of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

“The NSDUH shows a decline in alcohol use disorders among all age groups,” Zakhari added.

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