Study: US Drinking Problem Is Much Worse This Century

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Study: US Drinking Problem Is Much Worse This Century
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Alcohol accounts for a staggering 5.9% of annual deaths around the world, according to the World Health Organization. This figure is higher than the number of people killed by AIDS. [1] Considered as the world’s most popular drug, alcohol has a serious effect on many people’s lives. Drinking problems are everywhere, but in some countries, the problems are more prevalent.

A recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry revealed that Americans are drinking more than they used to — a trend that has serious implications for the country’s future healthcare costs. [2] The study highlighted the increase registered by alcohol consumption among adults, with women posting the larger increase in alcohol abuse. It estimated the number of adults who binge drink as high as 30 million which is greater than the population of every state except California.

The rise in alcohol consumption was observed in older Americans, minorities, and the socioeconomically disadvantaged. For Bridget Grant, lead author of the paper, the increases are troubling and trends like this have not been seen for three or four decades.

The researchers gathered data from participants in the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions and the National Epidemiology Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III. The former was conducted between 2001 and 2002 while the later was carried out between 2012 and 2013. Both surveys were designed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health to assess the prevalence of alcohol use disorders and their associated disabilities in the general population. [3]

The study’s key findings paint a startling image of alcohol use disorder in the U.S. See the list below:

• One in eight American adults meet the criteria for alcoholism
• Alcohol use disorder now affects 12.7 percent of the U.S. population
• One in four adults under 30 years old are within the criteria for alcoholism
• Opioids, heroin, and marijuana related disorders are low compared to alcohol abuse [4]

These are huge numbers. The people behind the study stressed that these worrisome findings are a public health crisis that has been seriously overlooked by the government. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 88, 000 people die a year from alcohol-related causes. Opioid, cocaine, and heroin overdoses were estimated at 30,000, 7,000, and 13,000, respectively.

Alcohol has been destroying more lives than all these other drugs combined… so why are policy makers not wringing their hands over this health crisis? Current political discussions have focused on marijuana and the worsening opioid crisis, sidelining America’s drinking problem.

Alcoholism is not only a health issue but is also economic. The price of drinking is astronomical, says a CDC report. Binge drinking costs the U.S. loses nearly $250 billion due to lost productivity in the workplace, alcohol-related crimes, and treatment for diseases that resulted from excessive alcohol consumption. Americans spent $1.90 per drink in 2006, translating to $223.5 billion. That figure rose to $2.05 a drink in 2010, amounting to $249 billion. [5]

The JAMA study also reported on underage drinking which remains a persistent problem despite the decline registered among the nation’s 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. One of the leading crusaders in the fight to eliminate underage drinking and drunk driving is the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. According to the group, alcohol consumption among the youth remains a concern.

For health experts such as David Jernigan of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the statistics presented by the study should be a big wake-up call. He believes that alcohol is the country’s number one drug problem that not only affects the youngsters but also other age demographics.

Further Reading:

The Shocking Ingredients In Your Beer

How Alcohol Attacks The Brain


[1] World Health Organization. 2015. Alcohol Fact Sheet.

[2] Grant BF et al. August 9, 2017. Prevalence of 12-Month Alcohol Use, High-Risk Drinking, and DSM-IV Alcohol Use Disorder in the United States, 2001-2002 to 2012-2013.

[3] National Institutes of Health. National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC)—Wave 1 (2001–2002), and Wave 2 (2004–2005).

[4] National Institute on Drug Abuse. January 2017. Overdose Death Rates.

[5] U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fact Sheets – Alcohol Use and Your Health.

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