Americans, especially women and seniors, are drinking more

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

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.

It was conducted by researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism, the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, and relied on strictly controlled self-reporting of drinking habits. That number shot up by 49.4 percent in the 11 year period between 2002 and 2013.

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.

It tracked drinking patterns among 40,000 people between the years of 2002 and 2003 and then again from 2012 to 2013.

In the first survey, 65.4 percent of Americans reported that they drink alcohol; in the second survey, that number climbed to 72.7 percent. Odes to your favorite ah-ah-ah-ah-alcohol brands can be heard in popular music; you can now buy wine at the grocery store with your cat food and Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford actually drink wine in the morning and people think this is OK (I never thought this was OK.) Hell, we got people named Hennessy and Alize gradudating high school now. A person was considered to have alcohol use disorder if they met criteria for alcohol dependence or abuse in the past year. The study also classified high-risk drinking as exceeding those daily drinking limits at least once a week in the past year.

"Unemployment, residential segregation, discrimination, decreased access to health care, and increased stigma associated with drinking" are all things that could play a role in the shift, according to the study.

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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.

The numbers are even more grim for certain groups. For seniors, individuals 65 and older saw a staggering 106.7% increase in alcohol use disorders from 2002/2003 to 2012/2013. Rates of AUD, for instance, increased by 92.8% for African-Americans, and by 65.9% for those earning $20,000 or less. But a 2013 study found that alcoholic beverages are more affordable in the United States now than at any time since 1950.

And among older adults, abuse and dependence more than doubled.

Risky alcohol use did increase in the men who were surveyed, but not to the same extent that it did for the other groups.

"These increases constitute a public health crisis", they wrote. Because of this, the study presses for "the development of prevention and intervention strategies" that will target both the entire population and the subgroups who are particularly at risk. 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.

These calls for new public health strategies are all the more important because though alcohol abuse is a widespread issue, treatment rates remain disproportionately low.

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