The study looked at both alcohol abuse, which is drinking to the point where it causes recurrent and significant problems in your life, or alcohol dependence, which is in part the inability to stop drinking.
Meanwhile, the study found a "generally much greater" increase in drinking among minorities than white Americans.
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.
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. 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.
The study did propose a solution to help lower these numbers.
'Most important, the findings herein highlight the urgency of educating the public, policymakers and health care professionals about high-risk drinking and AUD, destigmatizing these conditions and encouraging those who can not reduce their alcohol consumption on their own, despite substantial harm to themselves and others, to seek treatment'. In the new study, the authors found that deaths from alcohol-related cirrhosis rose dramatically between 2009 and 2013 for the first time since the 1970s.
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These subgroup-specific increases could prove to have particularly deadly effects, the study's authors noted.
The new findings are based on face-to-face interviews with nationally representative samples of adults in 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. However, as people usually under-report consumption, the authors warned the rates might be higher.
'These increases constitute a public health crisis that may have been overshadowed by increases in much less prevalent substance use (marijuana, opiates and heroin) during the same period, ' the authors said. The researchers suggest that growing wealth inequality between whites and minorities may have led to "increased stress and demoralization", while educational, employment, housing and health disparities faced by non-white Americans may also lead to increased coping behaviors. 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.
"People need to really take some of the information about the potential harms of heavy drinking into account when determining when and how much to drink", said Hasin, according to Business Insider.
There "is and always has been" a lack of awareness regarding the health dangers of drinking excessively, Schuckit says. Nearly every argument used against legalizing marijuana can be used against alcohol.
Older adults, too, had sharp increases, even though the group has traditionally had lower rates of alcohol use compared to the overall population.
Psychotherapist Alexis Michael joined Morning Dose on Thursday and said it's because women are catching up with men.