Alcohol abuse is on the rise in the US, although alcoholism is falling, according to a government study.

About 4.65% of the adult population reported alcohol abuse in 2001-02, up from 3.03% a decade earlier, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported on Friday.

During the same period, the share of the population, aged 18 and older, judged to be alcoholics slipped from 4.38% to 3.81%.

"What is surprising, then, is that the prevalence of alcohol abuse increased in the face of slightly declining rates of heavy drinking," said the research team led by Bridget F. Grant.

Alcohol abuse is defined as drinking-related failure to fulfill major obligations, social or legal problems related to alcohol, and drinking in hazardous situations. Alcoholism is characterised by compulsive drinking and tolerance to alcohol.