Alcoholism Is Up Almost 50 Percent—and You’ve Probably Failed the “Too Much” Test at Least Once

"High-risk" drinking is a lot more common than you might think.

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In all likelihood, you’ve had a drink in your life. According to a 2012 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) study, 87.6 percent of Americans over the age of 18 have consumed an alcoholic beverage at least once. Just one drink isn’t an issue—but it isn’t the light drinkers that are on the rise.

According to Popular Science, alcoholism in the United States has hit a historic high. A recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry took a look at America’s relationship with drinking between 2001 and 2012, analyzing two nationally representative surveys. The research found that over this 10 year period, diagnosable alcoholism increased by 49.4 percent, and habits of high-risk drinking increased by 29.9 percent.

Now, alcoholism, or clinically speaking, alcohol use disorder, and high-risk drinking are different. The Mayo Clinic defines alcohol use disorder as: “a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.”

“High-risk drinking” or “at-risk drinking” deals with volume and differs depending on gender. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, high risk-drinking for men is defined by the consumption of “More than 4 drinks on any day or 14 per week,” while high-risk drinking for women is defined by the consumption of “More than 3 drinks on any day or 7 per week.” One in four high-risk drinkers already suffer from alcoholism, and the remaining 75 percent have a greater risk of developing alcoholism.

Although the study reflected an increase across demographic boundaries in problematic drinking, there were particular groups at higher risk. The most at-risk groups were women, people of low socioeconomic status, older adults, and racial or ethnic minorities.

“Just like people with risk for diabetes should know they may face trouble, people with potential alcohol problems should realize their problems,” Marc Schuckit, a professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego specializing in alcohol and drug abuse told Popular Science. “It’s just that people don’t always do self-evaluation like they should.”

If you have a healthy relationship with alcohol, there are daily guidelines to follow that can help you enjoy the drink responsibly. However, abstaining entirely will help you lower your risk of quite a few health conditions.

If you or one of your loved ones is struggling with alcohol abuse, contact SAMHSA’s national hotline at 1-800-662-HELP for assistance finding local specialized treatment.

[Source: Popular Science]

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