The study defined high-risk drinking as regular consumption of four drinks a day for women or five for men. Alcohol is a risk factor for many potentially life-threatening injuries and health problems, including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and liver cirrhosis.
Increases in alcohol abuse were greatest among women, older adults, racial/ethnic minorities, and individuals with lower educational level and family income.
"High risk" drinking has increased on pace with alcohol abuse, swelling from 9.7 percent of the population in 2002-2003 to 13.7 percent of the population in 2012-2013. One in eight American adults, or 12.7% of the population, meets diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder, according to the study.
'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 new findings are based on face-to-face interviews with nationally representative samples of adults in 2001-2002 and 2012-2013.
Survey respondents were asked about the number of drinks they had per day, how many times they consumed alcohol during the week, and whether or not they had been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
But that's not what mostly concerned researchers.
Though the study reflects stark increases among the population overall, the most noticeable rises were in various population subgroups.
These biggest increases were seen among women, older adults, minority groups, and people with low education or income levels. Among the poor (earning less than $20,000) it rose by 65.9 percent.
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Women showed an 83.7 percent increase in alcohol use disorders in the time frame, and individuals who were 45 years to 64 years, and 65 years and older had 81.5 and 106.7 increases in the disorders respectively.
Authors did note some limitations in the study though, primarily that the surveys lacked any sort of biological testing for substance use.
Indeed, the study's findings are bolstered by the fact that deaths from a number of these conditions, particularly alcohol-related cirrhosis and hypertension, have risen concurrently over the study period.
The study was conducted by researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism, the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, and relied on rigorously controlled self-reporting of drinking habits. Alcohol is widely available and advertisements send the message that "you cannot imagine that anybody can exist without alcohol", he says.
"My view is that if we ignore these problems, they will come back to us at much higher costs through emergency department visits, impaired children who are likely to need care for many years for preventable problems, and higher costs for jails and prisons that are the last resort for help for many", he wrote.
"Policymakers and health professionals need to be aware of this, too", she added.
- Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol (e.g., arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication).
Risky alcohol use did increase in the men who were surveyed, but not to the same extent that it did for the other groups. 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.