Gen X, Older Millennials Are Drinking Too Much and Underestimate the Impact on Their Health, Addiction Specialists Warn

CHICAGO — Osteopathic physicians who specialize in addiction medicine find adults in their mid-30s to 40s are drinking too much, too often. A new online poll conducted on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association by The Harris Poll adds to other data that shows a rise in daily drinking and binge-drinking among adults who have graduated into a stage of their life not typically associated with alcohol excess.

Thirty-three percent of 35- to 44-year-old U.S. adults who have at least one drink in a typical week confirmed one or more statements—based on the CAGE questionnaire for alcohol misuse—that would cause an addiction specialist to consider intervention, according to the new AOA poll.

“We tend to believe a person is managing alcohol well if they’re not an alcoholic,” says Malissa Barbosa, DO, a board-certified family physician and fellowship-trained addiction medicine specialist based in Orlando, Florida. “But what many fail to recognize is the gradual impact the chemical has on the body, as well as the associated disease states.”

Alcohol harms vital organs, including the liver, heart and brain. It increases the risk of several cancers, including liver, mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, colon and rectum. And even a few drinks a week can increase the risk of breast cancer in women.i

Depression, bipolar disorder, psychotic disorders and issues with anxiety are also associated with drinking.ii It can lead to development of neurological issues, including nerve pain and movement disorders as well as cognitive issues, such as impairments of memory, attention, problem-solving and more.iii

Physicians are worried about social drinkers

Nine in 10 adults who drink too much alcohol are not alcoholics or alcohol dependent, according to a previous study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Nearly 1 in 3 adults is an excessive drinker, and most of them binge drink, usually on multiple occasions. 

“Our culture celebrates excess,” says Dr. Barbosa. “It’s convinced many adults that alcohol is a necessary part of their lifestyle, and that several drinks a night is normal behavior.”

The AOA poll found 9% of adults aged 35-44 continue to drink even though it has already negatively affected their career, education and/or relationships.

Binge-drinking, which consists of four or more drinks in a two-hour period for women and five or more for men, is typical behavior for 7% of adults aged 35-44 and 10% of adults aged 45-54, the AOA findings show.

“We worry about kids on campus who put themselves in danger, but it’s become pervasive among adults, too. It’s time for serious conversations about the impact of excessive drinking on all demographics in our society,” says Dr. Barbosa.

If you have concerns about yourself or someone close to you, consult a physician about counseling or addiction services. In many cases, the alcohol use is masking an underlying issue that can be resolved through therapy or appropriate medication, experts advise.

“Alcohol Use and Your Health” fact sheet from the CDC

About the AOA

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 145,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; and is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools.

To learn more about DOs and the osteopathic philosophy of medicine, visit www.DoctorsThatDO.org.

Survey Method

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of AOA from March 25 – 27, 2019 among 1,969 U.S. adults aged 21+, of whom 1,183 drink 1+ alcohol beverage in a typical week. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Jessica Bardoulas.

i https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body 
ii https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm 
iii https://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcoholism-treatment/binge-drinking-problem

Source: American Osteopathic Association


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