The increase is alarming but also a bit mysterious to neuroscientist Aaron White, one of the study's authors, in part because the same nine-year period showed a mere 2 percent increase in per capita alcohol consumption overall, and an 8 percent increase in the number of emergency room visits for any reason.
"Even though that is not showing up in increases in overall per capita consumption, it's enough to drive the increase in alcohol-related emergency department visits."
The new finding comes from an analysis of a nationally representative data set that includes information on about 30 million visits to U.S. hospital-based emergency departments annually, from 945 hospitals in 33 states and Washington, D.C.
White also was puzzled by a higher rate of increase in alcohol-related ER visits year to year among women, who are catching up with men nationally in overall drinking as well as in binge drinking, drunk driving and deaths from cirrhosis of the liver caused by alcoholism.
The rise in emergency room visits due to alcohol is unsurprising in at least one sense, White says.