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article imageHealth Crisis — Alcohol use disorders in U.S. jump 50 percent

By Karen Graham     Aug 14, 2017 in Health
Americans are drinking more, a lot more, according to a study sponsored by a federal agency for alcohol research. The prevalence of alcohol abuse disorders has risen nearly 50 percent, creating a public health crisis.
According to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry, an estimated one out of every eight Americans struggles with an alcohol disorder.
Tracking the alcohol consumption habits of 40,000 Americans, the study examined how drinking habits have changed between two periods of time, between 2002-2003 and 2012 -2013. The study also created a picture of long-term drinking habits that led to findings, that in light of the national opioid abuse crisis, make the alcohol abuse problem even more shocking.
Drinking alcohol, in general, saw a substantial increase over that time period, while problem drinking saw a huge rise, particularly among women, minorities and senior citizens. The study used criteria established by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Using statistical analysis, that included a software program (SUDAAN, version 11.0; Research Triangle Institute72) used to take into account standard errors of the prevalence estimates for each survey, the results indicated significant differences in the estimates between surveys.
Not only do the findings "suggest a public health crisis," given alcohol abuse is linked to a number of health and psychiatric problems, as well as violence and crimes, "these findings portend increases in many chronic comorbidities in which alcohol use has a substantial role," the researchers write.
High-risk drinking problems
High-risk drinking in the study referred to those women drinking four or more alcoholic drinks a day, or men drinking five or more alcoholic drinks per day. In this study, high-risk drinking in women rose 58 percent. In older adults, it rose an astounding 65 percent.
Photo Courtesy Maena
Problem drinking statistics
Problem drinking takes into account both alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence, according to the criteria. In alcohol abuse settings, drinking begins interfering with home, family, or job responsibilities, while alcohol dependence indicates the inability to quit drinking.
Overall, problem drinking increased 50 percent between the two survey periods. Among women, alcohol abuse and dependence increased by 83.7 percent, in African Americans, it increased by 92.8 percent. and among those Americans earning less than $20,000 a year, it rose by 65.9 percent.
Noteworthy were the findings for alcohol abuse and dependence in older Americans, those 65 and over. The statistics indicate problem drinking increased by a whopping 106.7 percent. The researchers did not theorize on why there was such a huge increase in older adults, but did say it was "unprecedented."
Kids who drink are more likely to be victims of violent crime  according to the U.S. National Instit...
Kids who drink are more likely to be victims of violent crime, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The cost of alcohol abuse disorder
It is estimated that over 88,000 Americans die every year from alcohol related problems, either because of health impacts, falls, accidents, violence or other means. The number of alcohol abuse disorder deaths actually overshadow the number of deaths being seen from drug overdoses, currently said to be about 91 to 100 deaths per day.
The cost of excessive alcohol use in the United States reached $249 billion in 2010 or about $2.05 per drink, according to data published by the CDC in 2016. Most of the loss was in workplace productivity, accounting for 72 percent of the $249 billion. Health care expenses in treating alcohol abuse disorder amounted to 11 percent of the total.
The economic impact of alcohol problems on the U.S. economy far outweighs the $78.5 billion in aggregate costs associated with the opioid crisis in the U.S. And here is an interesting statistic - looking at costs for lost productivity due to opioid dependence, including reduced productive hours and lost production for incarcerated individuals, this was estimated at about $20 billion.
More about Alcohol Abuse, JAMA, alcohol use disorder, Senior citizens, economic impact
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