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Risky drinking is rising rapidly in the US

12 August 2017, 02:54 | Winifred Adams

High-risk drinking increases substantially among some groups in the US, study says

A new US study has found that the rate of alcoholism among American adults especially the elderly women and minorities climbed by nearly 50 percent in the first decade of the 2000's

"These findings portend increases in many chronic comorbidities in which alcohol use has a substantial role", the researchers write.

The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, found that the largest increase was seen in the number of people with AUDs overall.

The study's authors characterize the findings as a serious and overlooked public health crisis, noting that alcoholism is a significant driver of mortality from a cornucopia of ailments: "fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, liver cirrhosis, several types of cancer and infections, pancreatitis, type 2 diabetes, and various injuries".

The study, which was conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and reported by Time, compared two groups of people from the years 2001-2002 and then 2012-2013.

Though the nation's focus may be turned to the deadly opioid epidemic, a new study has discovered that the use of another prevalent drug is also on the rise: alcohol.

The study, sponsored by a federal agency for alcohol research, examined how drinking patterns changed between 2002 and 2013, based on in-person surveys of tens of thousands of USA adults.

The research team didn't give a reason for the spike in alcoholism, but said the increase came about as it became more socially acceptable for women to drink. The proportion Americans developing alcohol dependence, it said could be considered a "public health crisis".

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

But high-risk and problem drinking increased far more dramatically.

A separate study looking at differences between the two federal surveys found that the disparities are likely caused by how each survey asks about alcohol disorders: it found that the NESARC questionnaire used in the current study is a "more sensitive instrument" that leads to a "more thorough probing" of the alcohol use disorder criteria. High-risk drinking grew from 9.7 percent to 12.6 percent. This is especially true among women, older adults, racial/ethnic minorities, and the socioeconomically disadvantaged.

During the same time period, the incidence of alcohol use disorder rose from 8.5 percent to 12.7 percent. The disorder is determined by such symptoms as alcohol interfering with a person's home or work life, suffering withdrawal symptoms after abstaining from alcohol and being unable to cut down on or stop drinking, among others. Death rates from cirrhosis increased between 2009 and 2013, which hasn't happened since the early 1970s, she says.

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. Alcohol is widely available and advertisements send the message that "you cannot imagine that anybody can exist without alcohol", he says. They also specify that those factors could be categorized in many different ways, be it through societal pressures, environmental circumstances, or individual situations. In Canada, there is a minimum price for alcohol, and when that price has gone up, health problems and hospitalizations related to alcohol have gone down, he says. Plus, the authors also highlighted the financial burden that's associated with heavy drinkers.

Respondents with only a high school education reported a 57.8 percent increase in number of AUDs, and those who made less than $20,000 yearly reported a 65.9 percent increase in the disorders. In other words, the women are just catching up to the men. "Policymakers and health professionals need to be aware of this, too".



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