The increase in alcoholism was more pronounced among women, racial minorities, older adults, people on low incomes and people living in urban areas.
High-risk drinking rose about 30% between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013.
The study, sponsored by a federal agency for alcohol research, examined how drinking patterns changed between 2002 and 2013, based on in-person surveys of tens of thousands of US adults.
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.
The study defined high-risk drinking as regular consumption of four drinks a day for women or five for men.
According to a recent study, alcoholism amongst American adults has increased by 49 percent from 2002 to 2012.
The highest increase, however, is in Americans who suffered in the past 12 months from the DSM-IV variety of alcohol use disorder, also known as AUD, which the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism notes can exist as either alcohol abuse or dependence.
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Marc Schuckit, a professor at the University of California at San Diego, wrote an accompanying editorial on the study and said the fact that many of these groups are less likely to have health coverage is alarming.
Male high risk drinking increased by 15% and alcoholism by 35%, while female high-risk drinking increased by 58% and alcoholism by 84%. The results came from face-to-face interviews with nationally representative samples of adults in 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. By 2013, almost three-quarters of American adults said they had consumed alcohol within the previous year. Alcohol use can also put older adults at a higher risk for a fall and for chronic diseases that can be caused by alcohol use. But after that point, drinking rates started to rise significantly, with high-risk drinking rising slightly. The jump for adults 65 and older was 106.7 percent, 83.7 percent for women, 51.9 percent for Hispanics and 92.8 percent for blacks.
- 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).
These subgroup-specific increases could prove to have particularly deadly effects, the study's authors noted.
They also said they expect those costs to increase because it can take a few years before the damage done by increased alcohol use to be seen. 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.
The research team, lead by Dr Bridget Grant, compared survey data about alcohol use over two year-long periods, from 2001-2002, and 2012-2013, to compare the change over time. Because people tend to under-report consumption, especially as the amount of alcohol consumed increases, it's possible consumption levels could be even higher than found in this study.
There "is and always has been" a lack of awareness regarding the health dangers of drinking excessively, Schuckit says.
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