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In the span of 10 years, from 2003 to 2013, alcohol consumption among adults in the U.S. rose by a staggering 50 percent, according to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association, JAMA Psychiatry.
Researchers couldn’t offer a clear reason for the spike in alcohol use. They claim, however, the increase represents a problem on the same scale as the nation’s opioid epidemic, which the White House recently declared a state of emergency.
Conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, the study tracked 40,000 drinkers between 2002 and 2003 and followed up again between 2012 and 2013, in an effort to monitor drinking habits over time. The findings are chilling.
What are the Findings of the NIAAA Alcohol Use Disorders Study?
- Nearly 30 million Americans – 1 out of every 8 – struggle with an alcohol use disorder
- Misuse rose from 8.5 percent in 2002/2003 to 12.7 percent in 2012/2013
- Among African Americans, misuse rose by 92.8 percent
- The trend among women rose similarly, with alcohol misuse spiking 84 percent
- For adults aged 45 to 65 years old, the 10 year increase was almost 82 percent
- The highest increase came among senior citizens, those 65 and older, with just under a 108 percent increase in alcohol use problems
“These findings portend increases in many chronic comorbidities in which alcohol use has a substantial role,” researchers write.
The health risks of alcohol misuse are especially acute for seniors who might be consuming more alcohol for a myriad of reasons, such as isolation, the loss of a loved one, lack of purpose after retirement, or even depression due to existing poor health.
What are the Criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), often referred to as the “Bible of psychiatry,” lists certain criteria in diagnosing alcohol use disorder. These include behavior in the past year, such as:
- Drinking more or longer than intended
- An increased tolerance to alcohol and having to drink more to feel same effects
- Tried to limit or stop drinking more than one time
- An increase in time spent drinking, being sick due to alcohol or hung-over
- Difficulty thinking of anything else to do besides drinking
- Alcohol use has interfered with family, school or professional life
- Continued to drink despite negative consequences
- Drinking in lieu of once pleasurable activities done without alcohol
- Unsafe behavior like drinking and driving
- Continued alcohol use after blackouts or states of anxiety and depression
- Indications of alcohol withdrawal, such as trouble sleeping, the shakes, restlessness, nausea, etc.
According to the DSM-V…
- Two to three symptoms from the above 11 indicate a mild severity
- Four to five symptoms indicates a moderate severity
- Six or more symptoms indicate severe alcohol use disorder
More than ever, public awareness of addiction as a treatable disease and not a moral failure can make the difference in the lives of those that need help.
A combination of treating alcoholism with medication along with counseling and other approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, have helped scores of people recover from the disease of addiction.