5 Types of Alcoholics Identified
More Than Half of U.S. Alcoholics Are Young Adults, Alcohol Dependence Study Shows
June 29, 2007 -- New alcoholism research identifies five types of alcoholics and shows that young adults account for more than half of U.S. alcoholics.
The high percentage of young adults among alcoholics was unexpected, notes researcher Howard Moss, MD, who is the associate director for clinical and translational research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
"While we knew that many young adults had problematic involvement with alcohol from our research on college-aged drinkers, we were certainly surprised by the proportion of alcohol-dependent individuals who fell into that young adult cluster," Moss tells WebMD.
Seek Help for Alcoholism
In the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Moss and colleagues describe the five types of alcoholics. But before you read those descriptions, keep Moss' advice in mind.
"We hope that if someone suspects they may have a problem with alcohol that they talk about this with their health care provider," Moss tells WebMD.
"If the health care professional is uncomfortable with assessing alcohol problems (and we hope all such professionals are comfortable with these assessments) the individual should ask for a referral to an addictions specialist for an in-depth evaluation," he says.
Moss and colleagues studied data from 1,484 U.S. adults who took part in a national survey conducted by the NIAAA from 2001 to 2002.
The study focused on alcohol dependence and also included questions about personality, family history of alcoholism, and other substance use.
The researchers applied the survey's findings to the U.S. population. They estimate that in the year before the study, nearly 8 million people in the U.S. met the standard for a diagnosis of alcohol dependence.
Alcoholism is the nonmedical, popular term for alcohol dependence, notes Moss.
5 Types of Alcoholics
The study describes five subtypes of alcoholics.
The young adult subtype accounts for about 32% of U.S. alcoholics. They're young adults who rarely seek help for alcohol dependence. About 24 years old, they became alcoholics by age 20, on average. They drink less frequently than other alcoholics, but they tend to binge drink when they drink. This is the largest subtype.