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Americans Are Drinking More, and Here's Why

Seems there's a cultural change, and no 'policy response to match it'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 14, 2020 1:30 PM CST
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In this June 16, 2016, file photo, bottles of wine are displayed during a tour of a state liquor store, in Salt Lake City.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

(Newser) – Americans are drinking more now than when Prohibition was enacted. What's more, it's been rising for two decades, and it's not clear when it will fall again. That’s the picture painted by federal health statistics, which show a rise in per-person consumption and increases in emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths tied to drinking, the AP reports. The stats aren't all bad. Drinking among teenagers is down. And there are signs that some people are taking alcohol seriously. But overall, it's not good: "Consumption has been going up. Harms (from alcohol) have been going up," said Dr. Tim Naimi, an alcohol researcher at Boston University. “And there's not been a policy response to match it." A few facts, including what's behind the rise:

  • History: In the late 1910s, just before Congress banned the sale and manufacture of alcoholic beverages, each American teen and adult was downing just under 2 gallons of alcohol a year on average. These days it’s about 2.3 gallons. Historians say drinking was heaviest in the early 1800s, with estimates that in 1830 the average US adult downed the equivalent of 7 gallons a year.

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