Ethnic minority populations and Americans with lower education and income levels also had much more noticeable increases between the two surveys, according to the study. High-risk drinking grew from 9.7 percent to 12.6 percent.
And then there's problem drinking. The numbers reveal "a public health crisis", the authors say. The study looked at both alcohol abuse, which is drinking to the point where it causes recurrent and significant problems in your life, or alcohol dependence, which is in part the inability to stop drinking. The study also classified high-risk drinking as exceeding those daily drinking limits at least once a week in the previous year.
High-risk drinking among USA adults increased about 30% between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013, according to a new study.
The study found the number of American adults with an alcohol dependence increased nearly 50 percent during the period studied.
Marc Schuckit, a professor at the University of California at San Diego, wrote an accompanying editorial on the study and said the fact that many of these groups are less likely to have health coverage is alarming.
High-risk drinking was defined as imbibing four or more standard drinks (a drink equals 14 grams of pure alcohol) on any day for women and as drinking five or more standard drinks on any day for men.
The new findings are based on face-to-face interviews with nationally representative samples of adults in 2001-2002 and 2012-2013.
"The results of this study call for a broader effort to address the individual, biological, environmental and societal factors that influence high-risk drinking and [alcohol use disorder] and their considerable consequences and economic costs to society ($250 billion) to improve the health, safety and well-being of the nation", the authors, Bridget F. Grant, S. Patricia Chou and Tulshi D. Saha, wrote in the study.
During an 11 year gap, the number of people who received a diagnosis of alcoholism shot up by 49 percent, meaning 12.7 percent of the population - or roughly one in eight Americans - are alcoholics. High-risk drinking and AUD, for instance, increased for women by 57.9% and 83.7%, respectively - compared with increases of just 15.5% and 34.7% for men. Alcohol use can also put older adults at a higher risk for a fall and for chronic diseases that can be caused by alcohol use. Unlike high-risk drinking, which is defined by an amount of alcohol consumed, alcohol use disorder is classified according to psychological criteria.
'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.
During the same time period, the incidence of alcohol use disorder rose from 8.5 percent to 12.7 percent. Rates of AUD, for instance, increased by 92.8% for African-Americans, and by 65.9% for those earning $20,000 or less.
Problems with alcohol increased by almost 50 percent. Prevalence of 12-month alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and DSM-IV alcohol use disorder in the United States, 2001-2002 to 2012-2013. The stigma associated with heavy drinking and alcohol use disorder is also an issue, deterring people from getting help.
How did the study's authors judge who counts as "an alcoholic"?
"Policymakers and health professionals need to be aware of this, too", she added.