October 23, 2017

Distilled Spirits Council rejects claims alcohol abuse is rising

11 August 2017, 07:50 | Silvia Roy

Alcohol on sale at a supermarket in San Rafael

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

Overall, 12-month alcohol use rose by 11.2%, high-risk drinking by 29.9% and DSM-IV alcohol use disorder by 49.4% for the total U.S. population. The demographics also included older Americans, minorities and people with lower levels of education and payment. But what's even more concerning is that "high-risk drinking" increased by nearly 30%, meaning more people were finding themselves having four or five - or more - drinks per day at least once a week. In the '90s, however, alcohol consumption increased - the percentage of people who drank at all increased by almost half, while high-risk and disordered drinking increased by about 20 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

While there was no clear reason as to the increases, researchers claimed it constitutes a "public health crisis" on par with the current national opioid crisis.

Overall, the study found that drinking rates increased by 11 percent overall for Americans, with 75 percent of Americans admitting to having an alcoholic beverage in the past year in 2013. Deborah Hasin, the study's lead author and a professor at Columbia University, noted that while light drinking has been helpful for people's health overall, heavy drinking can often lead to some harms and impairment. That's nearly 30 million Americans actively struggling with alcohol abuse.

There's no single explanation for the increase. In other words, the women are just catching up to the men. They may be likely to have raised health care costs in future too. African American individuals have shown a whopping 92.8% increase in AUDs.

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The numbers are even more grim for certain groups.

"We pay for all of it", said Jürgen Rehm, senior director of the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

"The response of society should be commensurate to the level of the problem", he said.

"Alcohol", Rehm said, "we just tend to overlook". Limiting availability - by restricting hours of sale or the number of liquor licenses, for example - also would reduce consumption, Kerr added. That, however, would require a significant cultural shift in the U.S.

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Americans tend to consider excess drinking a character flaw rather than a medical problem.

And among older adults, abuse and dependence more than doubled. That compares with a treatment rate of about 60 percent for depression, she said.

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. "We haven't done the job for alcohol that we've done with depression".

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