Alcohol is the most widely used drug in the world, including in the United States.
About 70 percent of adults in the United States report past-year alcohol consumption, with over 37 million drinkers reporting binge drinking (defined for women as four or more drinks per occasion, and five or more drinks per occasion for men) at least once a week. The prevalence of past-year drinking has increased in the past two decades, from 65.4 percent in 2001 to 2002 to 72.7 percent in 2012 to 2013.
Partially because it is such a commonly used substance, heavily marketed and glamorized in pop culture, Americans’ comfort with and acceptance of alcohol is high.
Should it be?
I research alcohol use and the associations between drinking and a wide range of problems. While the rising opioid epidemic has been receiving a lot of attention in the past five years, it is important to remember that alcohol is involved in a greater number of deaths and physical and social problems. Backed by a strong industry, alcohol’s dangers may be underplayed and its benefits exaggerated. A study to examine the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, jointly funded by the National Institutes of Health and the alcohol industry, was recently halted for reasons including possible conflicts of interests. Now is a good time to review some things we do know about alcohol.
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