Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing alcohol problems, even for moderate drinkers

Summary: Moderate drinkers who have binge drinking habits are five times more likely to develop alcohol use disorders than moderate drinkers who do not binge drink.

Source: Elsevier

According to a new study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

After analyzing a national sample of American adults, UT Austin psychology professor Charles Holahan, PhD, and his collaborators found that moderate average drinkers with a heavy drinking pattern were almost five times more likely to have multiple drinking problems and were twice as likely to have more drinking problems nine years later.

Moderate drinking is defined as drinking on average no more than one drink per day for women and two for men. Heavy drinking is defined as drinking five or more drinks on one occasion.

“What this means,” Dr. Holahan said, “is that someone whose total consumption is seven drinks on Saturday night has a higher risk profile than someone whose total consumption is one daily drink with dinner, even though their average level of consumption is the same.”

This research supports a growing recognition that excessive alcohol consumption among adults is a public health problem and calls for increased public health efforts to address such consumption.

Research on binge drinking tends to focus on adolescents and college students, but most binge drinking occurs in adults over 30 and the prevalence of binge drinking among adults increases.

However, research on adult alcohol use and its effects generally focuses only on a person’s average level of alcohol consumption, which masks binge drinking patterns. Therefore, the impact of excessive alcohol consumption in adult light and moderate drinkers has not been well studied or understood.

“In scientific and media discussions of moderate drinking, the drinking pattern is typically overlooked,” said Rudolf Moos, PhD, one of the study’s co-authors and professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine.

This research supports a growing recognition that excessive alcohol consumption among adults is a public health problem and calls for increased public health efforts to address such consumption. Image is in public domain

“This leaves many drinkers to mistakenly assume that a moderate average level of drinking is safe, regardless of drinking pattern.”

To better understand the impact of drinking habits, the researchers analyzed the survey responses of 1,229 drinkers aged 30 and older. The data, drawn from two waves of the Midlife Development study in the United States, allowed researchers to see how respondents’ drinking habits affected them over nine years.

What the investigators found surprised them: Most cases of binge drinking — and multiple drinking problems — occurred in people who were average moderate drinkers.

“Much of binge drinking in adults escapes public health scrutiny,” Dr. Holahan said, “because it occurs in people who drink at a moderate average level. The results underscore the need for alcohol interventions targeting average-moderate level drinkers in addition to conventional strategies that focus on the higher-risk, but smaller population of habitual high-level drinkers.

About this alcohol and drug addiction research news

Author: Eileen Leahy
Source: Elsevier
Contact: Eileen Leahy – Elsevier
Image: Image is in public domain

See also

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Original research: Free access.
“Binge Drinking and Alcohol Problems in Average Moderate Drinkers” by Kaulie Watson et al. American Journal of Preventive Medicine


Summary

Excessive alcohol consumption and alcohol problems in average moderate drinkers

Introduction

A significant amount of binge drinking in adults escapes public health scrutiny because it occurs in people who drink at a moderate average level. This observational study investigated the role of a heavy drinking pattern in predicting alcohol problems among moderate drinkers in a US national sample of adults.

Methods

Participants were 1229 current drinkers aged ≥30 years from 2 waves of the Midlife Development Study in the United States, with a lag of 9 years (2004-2015) (analyzed in 2021‒2022). Negative binomial regression analyzes were used to examine the number of problem drinking, and binary logistic regression analyzes were used to examine multiple (≥2) problem drinking.

Results

Regardless of the average level of alcohol consumption, excessive alcohol consumption was linked to an almost 3-fold increase in the number of concurrent alcohol problems and a 40% increase in the number of alcohol problems. prospective 9 years later. Average moderate level drinkers accounted for most cases of binge drinking and multiple drinking problems. Among moderate drinkers, heavy drinking was linked to an almost 5-fold increase in multiple concurrent drinking problems and a >2-fold increase in multiple drinking problems prospectively 9 years later.

conclusion

These results greatly expand the growing recognition that excessive alcohol consumption is a public health problem among adults. Mid-level moderate drinkers should be included in efforts to reduce alcohol problems in adults. These findings apply to the primary and secondary prevention of alcohol problems with the potential to advance population health.

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