Just How Many Americans Struggle With Alcohol Abuse? The Answer Will Shock You

Glass of light beer on a dark pub.
For many American adults, drinking alcoholic beverages can be a way to enjoy oneself during special occasions and celebrations. In fact, more than 130 million individuals in the U.S. consumed alcohol on a regular basis throughout 2014.

However, failing to enjoy these drinks in moderation can easily lead to alcohol abuse and addiction. As a result, a new study has found that a shocking three in 10 adults in the U.S. have a drinking problem or have misused alcohol in the past.

According to a June 8 New York Daily News article, the survey of more than 36,000 adults nationwide also revealed that fewer than one in five adults who showed symptoms of alcohol dependence or addiction actually sought treatment for the problem.

“The stigma of alcohol problems is a major barrier to getting treatment,” senior study author Deborah Hasin, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University in New York, said.

The Columbia University researchers focused their study around alcohol use disorder, a condition characterized by the impact alcohol has on one’s everyday life. People with alcohol use disorder display symptoms such as frequently drinking more or longer than intended, a negatively impacted family, work and social life, and a propensity to make dangerous choices such as driving drunk.

Adults who moderately misuse alcohol are most likely to develop a problem around age 26, with more severe addiction emerging by age 23 and mild dependence manifesting itself by age 30. The study also found that men and white adults are more likely to develop alcohol problems than women or minorities. However, Native Americans experience higher rates of severe alcohol addiction than whites.

But how does America’s alcohol consumption compare to that of other nations?

Compared to countries like Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands and New Zealand, Americans’ average alcohol consumption is actually relatively tame, the 2015 Global Drug Survey revealed. U.S. adults need to drink less alcohol to feel its effects than citizens of all the aforementioned nations. They also have lower overall rates of dependence and are less likely to get drunk more often than they want to.

While that’s definitely something to be proud of, there’s still work to be done in terms of eradicating America’s burgeoning drinking problem.


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