Study: Global Alcohol Abuse Down 7% Since 1990, But Up 5.5% in US

By Rudy Takala | June 22, 2015 | 2:35pm EDT


(AP photo)

( – A new study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that while alcohol abuse decreased 7.6 percent globally since 1990, it increased 5.5 percent in the United States during that same time period.

The research, published in The Lancet on June 8, found that 76.8 million people in the world were diagnosed with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in 2013 – a figure greater than the population of more than 200 countries, including the United Kingdom.

Of those, 5.1 million individuals – or a little under 10 percent - were in the United States.

In addition to the 5.5 percent increase in alcohol abuse, the study also found that a larger percentage of Americans abused opioids and amphetamines over the last 25 years.

Opioid use disorders increased by 5.7 percent in the United States, slightly less than the 6.4 percent increase reported globally.

But while amphetamine use disorders decreased by 4.1 percent worldwide, they increased by 3 percent in the U.S.

However, cocaine and cannabis use disorders are down, both in the U.S. and around the globe.

Although cocaine use disorders decreased by 4.2 percent in the U.S., the decline was less than the 5.9 percent decrease reported globally, according to the study.

Cannabis use disorders impacted a total of 13.6 million people worldwide, of which 1.4 million were in the U.S.  Since 1990, they have decreased by 6.5 percent around the globe, and by a statistically insignificant .8 percent in the United States.

University of Washington professor and lead study author Theo Vos told that the reported declines in substance abuse are modest, and that little progress has been made to prevent alcohol and drug abuse in the U.S. and around the world.

“At the global level the decline in alcohol use disorders is small, though ‘significant statistically,’” Vos told “There is a small increase in opioid dependence. The changes in the other drug use disorders are smaller and not significant,” he said.

In a news release, Vos touched on the study’s findings, stating that funding to prevent substance abuse is crowding out research in other areas of public health.

“Large, preventable causes of health loss, particularly serious musculoskeletal disorders and mental and behavioral disorders, have not received the attention that they deserve. Addressing these issues will require a shift in health priorities around the world, not just to keep people alive into old age, but also to keep them healthy,” Vos noted.

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