'These increases constitute a public health crisis that may have been overshadowed by increases in much less prevalent substance use (marijuana, opiates and heroin) during the same period, ' the authors said.
While the study's findings are alarming, a different federal survey, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), has shown that alcohol use disorder rates are lower and falling, rather than rising, since 2002.
Increases in alcohol abuse were greatest among women, older adults, racial/ethnic minorities, and individuals with lower educational level and family income. By 2013, almost three-quarters of American adults said they had consumed alcohol within the a year ago. Alcohol is a risk factor for many potentially life-threatening injuries and health problems, including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and liver cirrhosis.
These biggest increases were seen among women, older adults, minority groups, and people with low education or income levels.
"Most important, the findings herein highlight the urgency of educating the public, policymakers and health care professionals about high-risk drinking and [alcohol use disorder], destigmatizing these conditions and encouraging those who can not reduce their alcohol consumption on their own, despite substantial harm to themselves and others, to seek treatment", according to the study. The study found high-risk drinking among USA adults spiked about 30 percent between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013.
High-risk drinking was considered to be four or more standard drinks on any day for women and five or more for men.
Between 2001 to 2002 and 2012 to 2013, 12-month alcohol use overall increased from 65.4% to 72.7% of the total population, a relative increase of 11.2%, the study discovered.
A new report in the Jama Psychiatry Journal says 30 million adults are binge drinking at least once a week.
- Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol (e.g., arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication).
And among older adults, abuse and dependence more than doubled. These face-to-face interviews queried adults 18 years and older on their drinking habits in the past 12 months.
Indeed, the study's findings are bolstered by the fact that deaths from a number of these conditions, particularly alcohol-related cirrhosis and hypertension, have risen concurrently over the study period.
Heavy drinking and alcohol use disorder contribute to diseases that are also on the rise, says study coauthor Bridget Grant, an epidemiologist at NIAAA in Bethesda, Md.
If the more sensitive data used in the current study is indeed more accurate, there's one final caveat to note: the study's data only go through 2013.
These subgroup-specific increases could prove to have particularly deadly effects, the study's authors noted. Alcohol is widely available and advertisements send the message that "you cannot imagine that anybody can exist without alcohol", he says. 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. The stigma associated with heavy drinking and alcohol use disorder is also an issue, deterring people from getting help.
"Policymakers and health professionals need to be aware of this, too", she added. "Clearly, alcohol does not get the necessary attention given the problems it causes", says Rehm. The rate of high-risk drinking stood at 10 percent (20 million people) in 2001-2002. In other words, the women are just catching up to the men.