National Survey Results show many Americans are Drinking Too Much

CLEVELAND – Each year, a national survey on alcohol use is conducted to gauge alcohol-related behavior among Americans.

For 2017, results showed an increase in reported alcohol use, high-risk drinking behavior and alcoholism for the entire U.S. population, but especially among women and older adults.

David Streem, M.D., medical director of the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center at Cleveland Clinic, said the results are part of a trend that experts have been seeing over the course of the past two decades.

“Women have been more susceptible to engaging in more binge-drinking, more high-risk drinking, and we’re seeing higher rates of alcoholism in women in the U.S. as well,” said Dr. Streem. 

High-risk drinking is defined as five drinks in a day for men, or four drinks in a day for women.

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Dr. Streem said women absorb alcohol more readily from the stomach, which is why the recommendation is lower for them.

He said for many women, what seems like a harmless daily red wine can become an entryway into alcohol abuse.

High-risk drinking comes with many risks, from consequences in a person’s home and professional life, including their safety and the safety of others, as well as other health-related problems.

The survey also shows that older Americans are engaging in high-risk drinking behaviors more than ever before.

Dr. Streem said as the country gets older, it’s important to take a step back and look at how we’re maintaining our health into our later years.

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“We’re all getting older and the size of the older population in America is going to double by 2030,” said Dr. Streem. “We’re going to have a lot of older folks and we want them as healthy as they can be and engaging in high risk drinking, heavy drinking, and alcoholic drinking throughout your adult life is not the way to have a healthy life as an older American.” 

Dr. Streem said it’s possible for people to not know when their drinking has become a problem. He said there are online self-tests that can tell a person if they are a high risk drinker.

He said if you or someone you know is having trouble controlling how much they drink, it’s time to consider seeking the help of a professional for substance abuse treatment.

Complete results of the survey can be found in JAMA.