Americans are drinking more than ever, especially women!

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And for women, it's four in two hours.

High-risk drinking was defined as imbibing four or more standard drinks (a drink equals 14 grams of pure alcohol) on any day for women and as drinking five or more standard drinks on any day for men.

Between 2002 and 2013, overall drinking increased by 11 percent.

As alcohol use increased, the differences between the two surveys became even starker.

"These findings portend increases in many chronic comorbidities in which alcohol use has a substantial role", the researchers write.

The study found the number of American adults with an alcohol dependence increased nearly 50 percent during the period studied. These include, for instance, whether drinking interferes with family or professional life and if drinkers experience withdrawal symptoms such as nausea or shakiness.

A shelf in the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's research alcohol bar at National Institutes of Heath in Bethesda, Maryland, in 2014.

The rate increased for the total US population and, with few exceptions, across sociodemographic subgroups over a 12-month period. High-risk drinking grew from 9.7 percent to 12.6 percent.

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High-risk drinking rose about 30% between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. These face-to-face interviews queried adults 18 years and older on their drinking habits in the past 12 months.

The researchers said the rate at which Americans are developing alcohol dependence could be considered a public health crisis. Among black people, it increased by 92.8 percent. But a 2013 study found that alcoholic beverages are more affordable in the United States now than at any time since 1950.

In his editorial, Schuckit wrote that proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health budget could make it harder to monitor growing alcohol use problems and could limit efforts to intervene for people at risk.

There's no single explanation for the increase, but the study says economic stress and the aftermath of the great recession could be contributing factors.

Though alcohol use reportedly remained stagnant or declined from the 1970s to 1990s, previous studies had reported it increasing in the '90s to early 2000s, and other studies have similarly reflected a narrowing of the gap in alcohol use among women versus men. The number of adults who suffered from an alcohol abuse or dependence grew from 17.6 million to 29.9 million over that decade. Because of this, the study presses for "the development of prevention and intervention strategies" that will target both the entire population and the subgroups who are particularly at risk.

The study's data comes from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a nationally-representative survey administered by the National Institutes of Health.

The study's authors characterize the findings as a serious and overlooked public health crisis, noting that alcoholism is a significant driver of mortality from a cornucopia of ailments: "fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, liver cirrhosis, several types of cancer and infections, pancreatitis, type 2 diabetes, and various injuries". The study noted that less than 10% of AUD cases are treated, while Psychology Today reported that only 19.8% of those with AUD even seek treatment in the first place.

"Light drinking has been shown to be helpful for people's health overall, but heavy drinking can lead to some harms and impairment", Deborah Hasin, the study's lead author and a Columbia University professor, said to Business Insider.

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