New Study Finds One in Eight Americans Is an Alcoholic

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

Among the ailments the researchers cite are: fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, liver cirrhosis, several types of cancer and infections, pancreatitis, type 2 diabetes, and various injuries.

Maybe if more studies like this come out, people will begin realizing that as well.

Americans are drinking too much.

High-risk drinking, in this study, referred to women drinking four or more drinks in a day, or men drinking five or more drinks in a day, on a weekly basis. Problem drinking increased by an even greater percentage, and women, racial minorities, older adults and the poor saw particularly large spikes.

"Once you get into the more heavy drinking ranges, the probability is you're cutting five to 10 years off people's lives", says Marc Schuckit, a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

"Light drinking has been shown to be helpful for people's health overall, but heavy drinking can lead to some harms and impairment", Deborah Hasinthe study's lead author and a Columbia University professor, said. 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. The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2010 were estimated at $249 billion, according to the JAMA Psychiatry study.

They found that drinking, in general, rose substantially over that time frame.

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Past studies have found that alcohol use in the United States declined or remained stable between the 1970s and early 1990s. Unlike high-risk drinking, which is defined by an amount of alcohol consumed, alcohol use disorder is classified according to psychological criteria.

Between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013, heavy drinking increased across all demographic groups. However, as people usually under-report consumption, the authors warned the rates might be higher.

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. They also specify that those factors could be categorized in many different ways, be it through societal pressures, environmental circumstances, or individual situations.

Authors of the study say "substantial" increases in alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and alcohol use disorder constitute a public health crisis and are harbingers of surges in chronic disease conditions in the United States.

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

"People need to really take some of the information about the potential harms of heavy drinking into account when determining when and how much to drink", Hasin said.

There "is and always has been" a lack of awareness regarding the health dangers of drinking excessively, Schuckit says. Interventions can help limit binge drinking and lower drinking rates during pregnancy, which can have a significant impact on health, he wrote. That is, men are still more likely than women to be problem drinkers, but women are catching up.

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