33 Million Americans May Be Affected by Problem Drinking

June 9, 2015

Study: Thirty-three million US adults may be affected by problem drinking.

Reports gathered by Dr. Mark Calarco, FitRx

The AP (6/4, Tanner) reports, “Alcohol problems affect almost 33 million adults and most have never sought treatment,” according to a study published online June 3 in JAMA Psychiatry. The research conducted by investigators at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also suggests that “rates have increased in recent years.” NIAAA director George Koob, PhD, “said it’s unclear why problem drinking has increased but that many people underestimate the dangers of excessive alcohol.” Koob also pointed out that effective behavioral treatments and medications exist to help people overcome problem drinking. He said, “There’s a lore that there’s only Alcoholics Anonymous out there and that’s not true.”

TIME (6/4, Sifferlin) reports that the study examined “the prevalence of drinking issues based on a new definition for alcohol use disorders in the” American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5). That “definition classifies problem drinkers as those who have two of 11 symptoms including continuing to drink even if it harms relationships, drinking harming performance at work of school, or inability to quit,” with problem severity being “classified by the number of symptoms a person has.”

Newsweek (6/4, Main) reports that “researchers surveyed more than 36,000 Americans and asked them about their drinking habits,” also finding that “binge drinking is becoming more common and intense.” Koob said, “There has been this cultural shift — people are drinking more when they drink.”

Yahoo! News (6/4, Chan) quotes Koob, who said, “These findings underscore that alcohol problems are deeply entrenched and significantly under-treated in our society.”

The NPR (6/4, Hurt, Shute) “Shots” blog points out that “Native Americans face the greatest risk overall” for problem drinking, “and men are still drinking more than women, with 36 percent of men reporting alcohol use disorder at some point in their lives, compared to 22.7 percent of women.” Among young people, “drinking problems were worst…with 26.7 percent of young adults under 30 saying they’d had trouble in the past year, compared to 16 percent of 30- to 44-year-olds.”

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