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Page last updated Oct. 13, 2020 by Doug McVay, Editor/Senior Policy Analyst.

21. Estimated Prevalence of Alcohol Use Disorder in the US, by Race/Ethnicity

"The rate of past year alcohol use disorder among persons aged 12 to 20 was higher for American Indians or Alaska Natives (14.9 percent) than for whites (10.9 percent), blacks (4.6 percent), Hispanics (8.7 percent), and Asians (4.9 percent). One in eight Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders (12.7 percent) met the criteria for an alcohol use disorder."

Pemberton, M. R., Colliver, J. D., Robbins, T. M., & Gfroerer, J. C. (2008). Underage alcohol use: Findings from the 2002-2006 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (DHHS Publication No. SMA 08-4333, Analytic Series A-30). Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies, p. 3.

22. Prevalence of Alcohol Use Disorder in Among Youth in the US

"Combined data from 2002 to 2006 indicated that an annual average of 9.4 percent of persons aged 12 to 20 (3.5 million persons in that age range) met the diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder (dependence or abuse) in the past year."

Pemberton, M. R., Colliver, J. D., Robbins, T. M., & Gfroerer, J. C. (2008). Underage alcohol use: Findings from the 2002-2006 National Surveys on Drug Use and ealth (DHHS Publication No. SMA 08-4333, Analytic Series A-30). Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies, p. 3.

23. Alcohol Poisoning Deaths in the US, 2010-2012

"On average, 6 people died every day from alcohol poisoning in the US from 2010 to 2012. Alcohol poisoning is caused by drinking large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time. Very high levels of alcohol in the body can shutdown critical areas of the brain that control breathing, heart rate, and body temperature, resulting in death. Alcohol poisoning deaths affect people of all ages but are most common among middle-aged adults and men."

"Alcohol Poisoning Deaths: A deadly consequence of binge drinking," CDC Vital Signs, January 2015, p. 1.

24. Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

"Withdrawal: A continuum of symptoms and signs of CNS (including autonomic) hyperactivity may accompany cessation of alcohol intake.
"A mild withdrawal syndrome includes tremor, weakness, headache, sweating, hyperreflexia, and GI symptoms. Symptoms usually begin within about 6 h of cessation. Some patients have generalized tonic-clonic seizures (called alcoholic epilepsy, or rum fits) but usually not > 2 in short succession.
"Alcoholic hallucinosis (hallucinations without other impairment of consciousness) follows abrupt cessation from prolonged, excessive alcohol use, usually within 12 to 24 h. Hallucinations are typically visual. Symptoms may also include auditory illusions and hallucinations that frequently are accusatory and threatening; patients are usually apprehensive and may be terrified by the hallucinations and by vivid, frightening dreams. The syndrome may resemble schizophrenia, although thought is usually not disordered and the history is not typical of schizophrenia. Symptoms do not resemble the delirious state of an acute organic brain syndrome as much as does delirium tremens (DT) or other pathologic reactions associated with withdrawal. Consciousness remains clear, and the signs of autonomic lability that occur in DT are usually absent. When hallucinosis occurs, it usually precedes DT and is transient.
"DT usually begins 48 to 72 h after alcohol withdrawal; anxiety attacks, increasing confusion, poor sleep (with frightening dreams or nocturnal illusions), profuse sweating, and severe depression also occur. Fleeting hallucinations that arouse restlessness, fear, and even terror are common. Typical of the initial delirious, confused, and disoriented state is a return to a habitual activity; eg, patients frequently imagine that they are back at work and attempt to do some related activity. Autonomic lability, evidenced by diaphoresis and increased pulse rate and temperature, accompanies the delirium and progresses with it. Mild delirium is usually accompanied by marked diaphoresis, a pulse rate of 100 to 120 beats/min, and a temperature of 37.2 to 37.8° C. Marked delirium, with gross disorientation and cognitive disruption, is accompanied by significant restlessness, a pulse of > 120 beats/min, and a temperature of > 37.8° C; risk of death is high.
"During DT, patients are suggestible to many sensory stimuli, particularly to objects seen in dim light. Vestibular disturbances may cause them to believe that the floor is moving, the walls are falling, or the room is rotating. As the delirium progresses, resting tremor of the hand develops, sometimes extending to the head and trunk. Ataxia is marked; care must be taken to prevent self-injury. Symptoms vary among patients but are usually the same for a particular patient with each recurrence."

"Alcohol," The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals, Special Subjects: Drug Use and Dependence, Alcohol (Merck & Co. Inc., last revised July 2008), last accessed August 28, 2013.

25. Impact of Medical Marijuana Laws on Crime Rates

"The central finding gleaned from the present study was that MML is not predictive of higher crime rates and may be related to reductions in rates of homicide and assault. Interestingly, robbery and burglary rates were unaffected by medicinal marijuana legislation, which runs counter to the claim that dispensaries and grow houses lead to an increase in victimization due to the opportunity structures linked to the amount of drugs and cash that are present. Although, this is in line with prior research suggesting that medical marijuana dispensaries may actually reduce crime in the immediate vicinity [8]."

Robert G. Morris, Michael TenEyck, JC Barnes, and Tomislav V. Kovandzic, "The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws On Crime: Evidence From State Panel Data, 1990-2006," PLoS ONE 9(3): e92816. March 2014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092816

26. Effect of Medical Marijuana Legalization On Crime Rates

"In sum, these findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes. To be sure, medical marijuana laws were not found to have a crime exacerbating effect on any of the seven crime types. On the contrary, our findings indicated that MML precedes a reduction in homicide and assault. While it is important to remain cautious when interpreting these findings as evidence that MML reduces crime, these results do fall in line with recent evidence [29] and they conform to the longstanding notion that marijuana legalization may lead to a reduction in alcohol use due to individuals substituting marijuana for alcohol [see generally 29, 30]. Given the relationship between alcohol and violent crime [31], it may turn out that substituting marijuana for alcohol leads to minor reductions in violent crimes that can be detected at the state level. That said, it also remains possible that these associations are statistical artifacts (recall that only the homicide effect holds up when a Bonferroni correction is made)."

Robert G. Morris, Michael TenEyck, JC Barnes, and Tomislav V. Kovandzic, "The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws On Crime: Evidence From State Panel Data, 1990-2006," PLoS ONE 9(3): e92816. March 2014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092816

27. Admissions to Treatment for Primary Alcohol Abuse Alone, in the US, 2012

"• Admissions for abuse of alcohol alone, with no secondary drug abuse, represented 21 percent of TEDS admissions aged 12 and older in 2012 [Table 1.1b].
"• The average age at admission among admissions for alcohol only was 41 years. The average age at admission for alcohol with secondary drug was 37 years [Table 2.1a]. Admission for alcohol only or with secondary drug was the most likely reason for admissions aged 30 and older [Table 2.1b].
"• Non-Hispanic Whites made up 66 percent of all alcohol-only admissions (approximately 46 percent were males and 21 percent were females) [Table 2.3a].
"• Eighty-seven percent of alcohol-only admissions reported that they first became intoxicated before age 21, the legal drinking age. Almost one-third (30 percent) first became intoxicated by age 14 [Table 2.5].
"• Among admissions referred to treatment by the criminal justice/DUI source, alcohol-only admissions were more likely than admissions for alcohol with secondary drug abuse to have been referred as a result of a DUI/DWI offense (28 vs. 16 percent) [Table 2.6].
"• Some 34 percent of alcohol-only admissions aged 16 and older were employed compared with 22 percent of all admissions that age [Table 2.8]."

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS): 2002-2012. National Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services. BHSIS Series S-71, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4850. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014, pp. 12-13.

28. Physiological Effects of Alcohol

"Alcohol is neurotoxic to brain development, leading to structural hippocampal changes in adolescence,16 and to reduced brain volume in middle age.17 Alcohol is a dependence-producing drug, similar to other substances under international control, through its reinforcing properties and neuro-adaptation in the brain.18 It is an immunosuppressant, increasing the risk of communicable diseases,19 including tuberculosis.20 Alcoholic beverages are classified as carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, increasing the risk of cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, oesophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, and breast in a linear dose-response relation,21 with acetaldehyde as a potential pathway.22 Alcohol has a biform relation with coronary heart disease. In low and apparently regular doses (as little as 10 g every other day), alcohol is cardioprotective,23 although doubt remains about the effect of confounders.24 At high doses, especially when consumed irregularly, it is cardiotoxic.25

Anderson, Peter; Chisholm, Dan; and Fuhr, Daniela C., "Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of policies and programmes to reduce the harm caused by alcohol," The Lancet (London, United Kingdom: June, 27, 2009) Vol. 373, pp. 2234-2236.

29. Alcohol and Driving

"When an alcoholic beverage is consumed, approximately 20% of the alcohol is absorbed in the stomach and 80% is absorbed in the small intestine (Freudenrich, 2001). After absorption, alcohol enters the bloodstream and dissolves in the water of the blood where it is quickly distributed to body tissues. When alcohol reaches the brain, it affects the cerebral cortex first, followed by the limbic system (hippocampus and septal area), cerebellum, hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and lastly, the medulla, or brain stem. Some of these regions are similar to those affected by cannabis, but alcohol also affects sexual arousal/function and increases urinary output. When BAC is near toxic levels, lower order brain regions are affected, which is often followed by sleepiness, lack of consciousness, coma, or death."

Laberge, Jason C., Nicholas J. Ward, "Research Note: Cannabis and Driving -- Research Needs and Issues for Transportation Policy," Journal of Drug Issues, Dec. 2004, pp. 973.

30. Alcohol In Combination With Antidepressants

"Antidepressants are most commonly in the form of selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac®) and sertraline (Zoloft®). They can cause impairment, especially in circumstances where extremely high blood concentrations are measured or if they are taken outside of medical need or therapeutic treatment. There is also an additional risk of impairment associated with combined use with alcohol."

Lacey, John H.; Kelley-Baker, Tara; Furr-Holden, Debra; Voas, Robert B.; Romano, Eduardo; Ramirez, Anthony; Brainard, Katharine; Moore, Christine; Torres, Pedro; and Berning, Amy , "2007 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers," Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (Calverton, MD: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, December 2009), p. 27.