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Nation & World

Americans drinking more now than just before Prohibition

NEW YORK (AP) – 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 stats aren’t all bad. Drinking among teenagers is down. And there are signs that some people are taking alcohol seriously – such as the “Dry January” movement making the rounds on social media.

But overall, public health experts say America still has a drinking problem.

“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.”

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, according to federal calculations. That works out to nearly 500 drinks, or about nine per week.

Historians say drinking was heaviest in the early 1800s, with estimates that in 1830 the average U.S. adult downed the equivalent of 7 gallons a year.

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