One in eight Americans is an alcoholic. One in eight.
Under the radar, Americans have been drinking way more, sliding silently further down a slippery slope of alcohol addiction. Some are even calling it an epidemic — shocking, since few Americans were even aware that the condition was on the rise.
Two surveys, conducted 11 years apart, found that dangerous alcohol consumption is increasing in prevalence across all demographics in the United States. The second survey was conducted from 2012 to 2013, and according to a report in the JAMA Psychiatry journal, the results showed that problematic use of alcohol rose sharply in the 11-year interim.
Populations with the most risk include women, older people, and ethnic minorities. The surveys included Americans of diverse backgrounds to ensure a representative sample, revealing the disparities between ethnic groups.
High-risk drinking, which is characterized by drinking that has the potential to severely impact the health of the drinker, increased by nearly 30 percent. And even more terrifyingly, the prevalence of alcoholism skyrocketed by nearly 50 percent.
We know this seems dramatic. But the proof is in the pudding: 12.7 percent of the entire population interviewed — from a large, representative sample of 36,000 people — had been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder. That means that one in eight people interviewed were medically confirmed alcoholics.
This number did not include those who may have been suffering from alcoholism but either did not report or had not been diagnosed.
This is one of the more dramatic health crises that has afflicted the U.S. in quite some time. Alcoholism is nothing to laugh over and nothing to brush off. The condition is severe and affects the mental, physical, and emotional health of those afflicted. Alcoholism in the long term can cause irreversible liver damage, brain trauma, and even cancer.
So why hasn’t the spotlight been on alcoholism?
It seems Americans just didn’t know it was an issue. Maybe they’ve been too busy drinking at the bar — or too busy condemning drug use, which has also been an increasing problem. However, it seems drug usage is center stage while the much more widespread problem of alcohol abuse has slid beneath most of our radars.
In previous studies, evidence-based awareness intervention has proven effective in combating alcoholism. Hopefully, this study will bring to light a simmering consequence of casual binge drinking and increase awareness of a number of misconceptions about alcohol.