July 21, 2018

Alcoholism among women rises in new study

12 August 2017, 07:51 | Randall Craig

High-risk alcohol use has increased significantly since 2002, study finds

Americans, Especially Women, Are Drinking Alcohol More Frequently Now

According to the study, high-risk drinking increased in women by 60%, and only 15% for men.

The United States has a serious drinking problem.

Though the study's authors note that their findings have some limitations - they did not survey anyone from homeless or incarcerated populations, for instance, which could mean they potentially underestimated the overall rates of alcohol use - the study notes that its findings are in line with other similar research.

Of course, alcohol is one hundred percent legal, while marijuana, which is not addictive and isn't almost as harmful to people's health (in fact, it has health benefits), is illegal. It also tracked other patterns like "high risk" drinking, which the study defines as four or more drinks a day for women and five for men, plus a day that exceeds those limits at least once a week. The number of adults who suffered from an alcohol abuse or dependence grew from 17.6 million to 29.9 million over that decade. They also said they expect those costs to increase because it can take a few years before the damage done by increased alcohol use to be seen.

Dr. Marc Schuckit, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, wrote an editorial published with the new study and said the results are an extension of the same crisis. For 45- to 65-year-olds, that increase was also high at 81.5 percent. Individuals 65 and older saw a staggering 106.7 percent increase in alcohol use disorders from 2002/2003 to 2012/2013.

The new findings are based on face-to-face interviews with nationally representative samples of adults in 2001-2002 and 2012-2013.

Older adults, too, had sharp increases, even though the group has traditionally had lower rates of alcohol use compared to the overall population. But after that point, drinking rates started to rise significantly, with high-risk drinking rising slightly.

Among women, it rose about 58 percent; among older adults, it rose 65 percent.

During an 11 year gap, the number of people who received a diagnosis of alcoholism shot up by 49 percent, meaning 12.7 percent of the population - or roughly one in eight Americans - are alcoholics. Their data showed that when freshmen college students were exposed to the risks of heavy drinking, their alcohol use was lower than those who were not. These include, for instance, whether drinking interferes with family or professional life and if drinkers experience withdrawal symptoms such as nausea or shakiness.

The study was conducted by researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism, the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, and relied on rigorously controlled self-reporting of drinking habits. Among the poor (earning less than $20,000) it rose by 65.9 percent. Nearly every argument used against legalizing marijuana can be used against alcohol.

This study wasn't created to determine why people are drinking more. "If something's cheaper, we buy more", says Jürgen Rehm, an epidemiologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

If you're an American and you drink alcohol, you're not alone.

To stop the rise in heavy drinking, he suggests "you need to counteract exactly those factors: make [alcohol] more expensive, make it less available and ban advertisements". In 2010, excessive drinking cost the U.S. nearly $250 billion, largely due to health costs.

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