America’s Growing Alcohol Problem

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Americans are drinking more alcohol in recent years than they did 15 years ago, with 12.6 percent of the population -30 million people – binge drinking at least once a week, a new study has found. The study, which compared the drinking habits of 40,000 people in 2001-02 and in 2012-13, showed a big jump in the number of people who regularly engaged in “hazardous”  drinking downing four or more drink for women, and five or more for men. Consuming that much alcohol is associated with a host of dangerous behaviors, including drunk driving and violence, and increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and neurological problems. The study also found that 12.7 percent of the population is alcoholic. Heavy drinking rose most sharply among women, blacks, and seniors. Deborah Hasin, an epidemiologist and author of the study, said a number of factors could be driving the rise of problem drinking. “Increasing the numbers of people feel pessimistic about their economic chances,” she told NPR.com Beverage makers, she said, have also learned to market alcohol products more effectively to women and young people, with ciders, various kinds of craft beers, and rose wine. Health experts said the study is a reminder that alcohol abuse is more widespread than opioid addiction. “Alcohol,” said David Jernigan of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health “is our No. 1 drug problem.”

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