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Age, Racial, and Gender Gaps Are Narrowing in Alcohol Use Disorders

Zolot, Joan PA

AJN The American Journal of Nursing: November 2017 - Volume 117 - Issue 11 - p 14
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000526731.98527.dc
In the News

Increases in alcohol abuse by women, older adults, and minorities outpaced the national average.

Joan Zolot, PA

The prevalence of alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and alcohol use disorder (AUD) among women, older adults, and minorities increased substantially between 2001–2002 and 2012–2013, according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry. Although the U.S. opioid epidemic has received well-deserved attention of late, in fact alcohol is more widely used and abused and causes more deaths than opiates.

This study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism compares data on alcohol use from its 2012–2013 survey of 36,309 U.S. adults with data from its 2001–2002 survey of 43,093 U.S. adults. Between 2001–2002 and 2012–2013, the prevalence of alcohol use during the 12 months preceding the survey increased 11.2%, and the prevalence of high-risk drinking (defined as four or more drinks daily for women and five or more drinks daily for men) increased 29.9%. The prevalence during the previous year of an AUD diagnosis as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, signifying alcohol dependence or abuse, increased 49.4%.

For women specifically, the prevalence of alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and AUD increased 15.8%, 57.9%, and 83.7%, respectively, suggesting an “alarming” narrowing of the gender gap in drinking patterns. Women who abuse alcohol are at risk for alcohol-related illnesses including breast cancer, liver cirrhosis, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Among adults 65 years or older, the prevalence of alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and AUD increased 22.4%, 65.2%, and 106.7%, respectively. Alcohol use increases the vulnerability of older adults to falls and injuries as well as to alcohol–drug interactions.

Every racial and ethnic group included in the study—blacks, Asian or Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and Native Americans—had increases in the prevalence of alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and AUD over the past decade. Together, these increases represent millions more Americans using and abusing alcohol—a true public health crisis. Nurses can help by recognizing patients who may be high-risk drinkers or have AUD and referring them for treatment.—Joan Zolot, PA

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Grant BF, et al JAMA Psychiatry 2017 74 9 911–23
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