Tag: alcohol dependence

More Americans Have Alcohol Use Disorders Than Ever Before

Dangerous Levels of Drinking

new numbers of alcohol use disorders

There are new numbers out on Americans and alcohol consumption and things aren’t looking good.

According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, there are several million more people with drinking problems than previously thought. The study examined drinking behavior on two levels – lifetime abuse and past year prevalence.

Dr. Bridget Grant, from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and lead author of the study, was spurred to reexamine Americans’ drinking patterns after the release of the DSM-5 in 2013.

The DSM is the manual used for diagnosing addiction, alcoholism, and many other mental health issues. In this most recent update, the fifth, it merged various forms of alcohol abuse into one new illness – alcohol use disorder (AUD).

After researching levels of alcohol use disorders, Dr. Grant and her colleagues came to a strong conclusion,

“Most importantly, this study highlighted the urgency of educating the public and policymakers about alcohol use disorder and its treatments, destigmatizing [sic] the disorder and encouraging among those who cannot reduce their alcohol consumption on their own, despite substantial harm to themselves and others, to seek treatment” (Medical News Today).

What’s going on in your brain when you drink?

The Latest Numbers on Alcohol Abuse

What exactly did Dr. Grant and her team find? Well, a vast increase in alcohol consumption across the board. Find their data broken down below:

  • Just over 29% of Americans reported having some sort of alcohol use disorder in their lifetime.


  • Just under 14% of Americans reported having some sort of alcohol use disorder in the past year.


  • Broken into numbers, this translates to 68.5 million people with lifetime AUDs and 32.6 million people with past year AUDs.


  • 36% of men reported having an alcohol use disorder in their lifetime.

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  • 17.6% of men reported having an alcohol use disorder in the past year.


  • Just over 19% of American Indians reported having a past year AUD, with 43.4% reporting a lifetime AUD.


  • Compare those numbers to the Caucasian population and there’s a large discrepancy. 14% of white Americans reported a past year alcohol use disorder and 32.6% reported a lifetime alcohol use disorder.


  • For the prevalence of excessive alcohol consumption, a relatively small percentage of people are seeking treatment. Only 19.8% of those with an AUD will receive treatment of any kind.

It’s clear to see from the above statistics that something major is going on. Alcohol has always been America’s drug of choice…but almost 30% of the country has had an AUD at some point? That seems like a HUGE number.

Let’s examine the recent changes to the DSM. Perhaps merging the different clinical forms of alcohol abuse into one has something to do with these astronomically high numbers.

Changes in the DSM-5

DSM stands for “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” It’s the go to way to diagnosis individuals with just about any type of mental illness. As such, the DSM can be found in every doctor’s office, treatment center, and mental health clinic across the country.

The fifth edition of this landmark book was published in mid 2013. Among many other changes was the inclusion of Alcohol Use Disorder. As mentioned above, this new view of alcohol abuse merged two older definitions.


Previously, there was alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. Alcohol abuse was comprised of things like heavy drinking, binge drinking, and problem drinking. Alcohol dependence was comprised of physical addiction to alcohol, i.e. the inability to stop without suffering withdrawals.

Merging the two allows doctors and clinicians to diagnosis someone with an AUD who, previously, may only have met the criteria for alcohol abuse. Depending on how you look at it, this leads to a more holistic picture of alcoholism or a more skewed portrayal of drinking behavior.

Think about it – if someone exhibited social consequences from their alcohol consumption in the past, they could be diagnosed as exhibiting alcohol abuse. Today, they’d fall under the umbrella of having an alcohol use disorder.

This broader definition is certainly what led to the large numbers above. 68.5 million Americans have experienced some form of AUD in their lifetime. This can range from an episode of binge drinking to full on, hallucination producing alcoholism.

There’s no doubt in my mind that our country is drinking more than ever before. Still, it’s not as bleak a picture as those numbers paint. With a combination of proactive educational measures and increased access to treatment, we should see significantly fewer people exhibiting an AUD.

Mixing Percocet and alcohol is a death sentence…

Do You Drink to Excess? A New Government Study Thinks So

More Americans Drink to Excess Than Even Before

drinking to excess

A new study from The Center for Disease Control claims that one in three, or 33%, of American adults drink to excess.


Think about that for a minute. The CDC is saying that a third of everyone over the age of eighteen drinks too much. That works out to approximately 100 million people.


Really, give that number a minute to sink in.

The Silver Lining

Okay, ready for some good news to balance out those scary numbers? Well, according to Robert Brewer, the co-author of this new study, “most people who drink too much are not alcohol dependent.”

In fact, the study found that only 10% of excessive drinkers meet the criteria for alcoholism. The number was the same for binge drinkers – only 10% of those who admitted to binge drinking meet the criteria for alcohol dependence.

Among those who don’t drink to excess or binge drink, the percentage of alcoholics was found to be just over 1%. That sounds like a more realistic number to me.

Before we go any further, let’s clarify exactly what drinking to excess, binge drinking, and alcohol dependence/alcoholism mean.

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What is Drinking to Excess?

The CDC defines drinking to excess differently for men and women. For men, it’s consuming fifteen or more drinks per week. For women, it’s consuming eight or more drinks per week.

These numbers make it a bit clearer why so many Americans drink to excess. Most people have a glass of wine or a beer with dinner. If they do that every night, and then have a few drinks over the weekend, they’re drinking to excess.

These numbers also explain why a mere 10% of excessive drinkers meet the criteria for alcoholism. Although people may be drinking too much, they don’t have trouble stopping, and they don’t experience withdrawals when stopped.


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What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking is also defined differently for men and women. For men, binge drinking is when they consume more than five drinks in a short period. For women, it’s when they consume more than four drinks in a short period.

It’s important to note that these are rough estimates. Binge drinking depends on a person’s weight, height, and how quickly they metabolize alcohol.

While binge drinking has long been associated with alcoholism, this isn’t always the case. Remember, the CDC’s new study found that only 10% of those who binge drink are alcohol dependent.

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What is Alcohol Dependence?

Alcohol dependence, or alcoholism, is one of the most misunderstood terms in the English language. Ask ten people what alcoholism means and you’ll likely get ten different answers.

what is binge drinking

There’s the twelve-step definition of alcoholism, which proposes that it’s a disease of body, mind, and spirit. Then there’s the medical definition. This proposes alcohol dependence is a rewiring of the brain which leads to physical withdrawal symptoms and the inability to stop drinking despite negative consequences.

For the purpose of this article, I’m going to define alcohol dependence as the CDC does. They explain alcoholism as a chronic disease that includes “a strong craving for alcohol, continued use despite repeated, physical, psychological, or interpersonal problems, and the inability to limit drinking.”

Enough Statistics & Definitions: What Does This Mean for Me?

Statistics and definitions are boring if we can’t tell how they impact our lives on a day-to-day level. So, the question becomes how, if at all, do these new numbers about excessive drinking affect you?

To put it simply, most people aren’t going to be affected at all by this study. That’s because most people fall into the category of excessive drinking as defined above. They drink a small amount on a regular basis. Over a period of time, say a week or month, these drinks add up to make them, technically speaking, excessive drinkers.

However, and this is an important however, their alcohol use doesn’t negatively impact their lives. So, despite being excessive drinkers, their live aren’t unmanageable.

For binge drinkers, these new numbers mean they should closely monitor their alcohol intake. Speaking from experience, it’s a swift transition from drinking too much on the weekends, to drinking too much everyday.

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