Are We Becoming A Nation Of Alcoholics?

The Lempert Report
September 22, 2017

Adult alcohol consumption has increased across all demographics.

The number of adults who binge drink at least once a week could be as high as 30 million add to that another 30 million who report alcohol abuse or dependency – that according to a study just published in JAMA Psychiatry.   

David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who wasn’t involved with the research said “Alcohol is our number one drug problem, and it’s not just a problem among kids.” 

Adult consumption has increased across all demographics, but especially for older Americans, minorities and people with lower levels of education and income. 

The rise is “startling,” said Bridget Grant, a researcher at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and lead author of the paper. “We haven’t seen these increases for three or four decades.” 

About 12.6 percent of adults reported risky drinking during the previous year in 2012-13, compared with 9.7 percent in 2001-02. And just how much is risky? To be considered high-risk  people have to exceed the government’s daily limits for alcohol intake, set at four drinks in one day for women and five drinks for men, at least once a week. 

So why all this drinking? The researchers point to economic stress in the aftermath of the Great Recession; more easily available alcohol at restaurants and retailers, the diminished impact of alcohol taxes along with the marketing by and new products such as flavored vodkas, hard lemonade and iced tea.  

Why should we care? Excess drinking caused on average more than 88,000 deaths in the U.S. each year from 2006 to 2010, the Centers for Disease Control estimates—more than twice the number of deaths from prescription opioids and heroin last year. The CDC says drinking too much is responsible for one in 10 deaths among working-age Americans.