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Study finds 1 in 8 Americans struggles with alcohol abuse

Americans are drinking more. A lot more.According to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry,an estimated one out of every eight Americans struggles with an alcohol disorder.

The study tracked drinking patterns among 40,000 people between the years of 2002 and 2003, and then again from 2012 to 2013 to create a long-term picture of their habits. The results are chilling, especially in light of other substance abuse crises plaguing the country.

Women, minorities, older people among most affected 

 

Overall, alcohol use disorders rose by almost 50%, affecting a projected 8.5% of the population during the first research period, and 12.7% during the second. That’s almost 30 million Americans actively struggling with alcohol abuse.
The numbers are even more grim for certain groups. According to the research, alcohol use disorders have almost doubled (92.8%) among the African American population, and increased nearly 84% among women.
However, the group that saw the highest increase in alcohol abuse disorders actually wasn’t women or minorities. It was senior citizens. Individuals 65 and older saw a staggering 106.7% increase in alcohol use disorders from 2002/2003 to 2012/2013. For 45- to 65-year-olds, that increase was also high at 81.5%.
What is an alcohol use disorder (AUD)?

For the JAMA Psychiatry study, researchers used the DSM-IVdefinition laid out by the American Psychiatric Association in 1994. This definition combines factors of alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence like:

  • Drinking interfering with home, family, or job responsibilities
  • Drinking increasing chances of danger or injury
  • Withdrawal symptoms when coming down from intoxication
  • An inability to stop drinking

Of 11 criteria given, the presence of two or more indicates an alcohol use disorder. Six or more indicates a severe alcohol use disorder.

It’s not just alcohol abuse

The study didn’t just track alcohol abuse. 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.
“High risk” drinking has increased on pace with alcohol abuse, swelling from 9.7 percent of the population in 2002-2003 to 13.7 percent of the population in 2012-2013.

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