NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - You've been hearing a lot about how bad the opioid crisis is but health officials say alcohol addiction is increasing at an alarming rate. In fact, heavy drinking has now become a public health crisis, according to a recent study by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Researchers surveyed 40,000 Americans about their drinking habits first in 2001 and then again in 2012. They found the increases were unprecedented especially among certain groups.
Alcohol use disorder, which is someone dependent on alcohol, was up 82 percent among people 45 to 64. Among women, it is up 84 percent and for those 65 and older an astonishing 107 percent.
"Alcohol is the leading cause of death among people who abuse substances," Dr. Harris Stratyner, an addiction specialist, told Fox 5. "This study didn't surprise me at all."
While the study found a variety of reasons behind the increases, economics is often a factor.
"Economics is a huge factor when it comes to all forms of addiction," Stratyner said. "We always see higher levels of addiction among the poor."
Excessive drinking causes a variety of diseases, from cirrhosis to strokes. Alcohol can be especially harmful to the elderly.
"They're drinking on top of medications," Stratyner said. "They're drinking on top of their blood pressure medications, their blood thinners."
Stress in general causes people to drink as a form of self-mediation, experts say.
Alcohol-related issues cost society an estimated $250 billion per year.
"It's one of the most dangerous drugs there is," Stratyner said. "It's a little slower to kill you. It might take 10 years before it causes cirrhosis but it's going to kill you."