Alcoholism in America – An Escalating Public Health Crisis

Alcoholism in America – An Escalating Public Health Crisis


Alcohol is one of the oldest intoxicating substances known to humankind.

According to a study just published in JAMA Psychiatry, it’s also increasingly leading to addiction in the form of “alcohol use disorder” or alcoholism.

According to the study, one in eight Americans over the age of 18 meets the definition of an alcoholic.

That is not a typo.  One in eight..

Even more disturbing nearly one in four adults under the age of 30 now meets the criterion for alcoholism.

Sadly, the number of people now defined as alcoholics jumped 49% in the first decade of the 21st century alone.

Calling the problem a serious and overlooked public health crisis, the study authors also found that rates of alcoholism were highest among men (16.7 percent), Native Americans (16.6 percent), people below the poverty threshold (14.3 percent), and people living in the Midwest (14.8 percent).

What defines an alcoholic according to the study?

Anyone meeting these criteria is defined medically as an alcoholic (taken directly from the National Institutes of Health):

  • Recurrent use of alcohol resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g., repeated absences or poor work performance related to alcohol use; alcohol-related absences, suspensions, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household).
  • Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving an automobile or operating a machine when impaired by alcohol use).
  • Recurrent alcohol-related legal problems (e.g., arrests for alcohol-related disorderly conduct).
  • Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol (e.g., arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication).
  • Need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect; or markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.
  • The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol; or drinking (or using a closely related substance) to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Drinking in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.
  • Persistent desire or one or more unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control drinking.
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities given up or reduced because of drinking.
  • A great deal of time spent in activities necessary to obtain, to use, or to recover from the effects of drinking.
  • Continued drinking despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to be caused or exacerbated by drinking.

What’s leading to this dramatic increase in alcoholism?  Study authors believe the same factors behind the opioid crisis are driving this one – “ stress and despair tied to social inequality.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to alcohol – the alcohol rehab specialists at Aware Recovery Care can help immensely.  Using a treatment model inspired by researchers at Yale, Aware Recovery Care is helping addicts recover at rates substantially above the national average.  Learn more today at