Alcohol Abuse, Alcoholism Common
Study: 30% of U.S. Adults Have Abused Alcohol or Been Alcoholics
WebMD News Archive
July 2, 2007 -- Thirty percent of U.S. adults have experienced alcohol abuse
or alcoholism, and fewer are getting treatment for alcohol use disorders than
in the past.
That’s according to a new study on alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence,
which is commonly called alcoholism.
The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, is based
on more than 43,000 U.S. adults who were interviewed in person between 2001 and
Participants answered questions about their alcohol use in the past year and
throughout their lives.
The researchers included Bridget Grant, PhD, of the National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). They checked participants' answers for
signs of alcohol abuse or alcoholism.
Alcohol Abuse vs. Alcoholism
Not sure where the line is between alcohol abuse and alcoholism? Here are
some quick facts from the NIAAA's web site.
Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, is a disease that includes these four
- Craving alcohol
- Loss of control -- not being able to stop drinking
- Physical dependence -- experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as nausea,
sweating, shakiness, and anxiety after stopping drinking
- Tolerance -- the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get
Alcohol abuse includes drinking problems without dependence on alcohol.
The NIAAA suggests answering these four questions to help determine whether
you or someone you know may have a drinking problem:
- Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
- Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
- Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
- Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves
or to get rid of a hangover?
According to the NIAAA, answering "yes" to one of those questions
suggests a possible alcohol problem, and more than one "yes" means that
it's highly likely that problem exists.
The NIAAA recommends seeing a doctor or other health care provider
immediately if you think that you or someone you know might have an alcohol
Alcohol Abuse, Alcoholism Statistics
Grant’s team reports the following statistics on participants' alcohol abuse
- Nearly 18% had ever abused alcohol and almost 5% had done so in the past
- Some 12% had ever been alcoholics and nearly 4% had been alcoholics in the
Alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence were more common in men than women.
Among ethnic groups, Native Americans had the highest rate of alcohol use
disorders, followed by whites.
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse typically started around age 22. On average,
alcohol abuse lasted about three years and alcoholism lasted nearly four
Those findings raise two important points. "First, alcohol dependence is
highly chronic [meaning it lasts a long time] and second, recovery is
possible," Grant's team writes.
Alcohol Treatment Rare
Few alcoholics or alcohol abusers got treatment for their drinking, the
Only 24% of those who had ever been alcoholics ever received treatment,
while 7% of those who had ever abused alcohol had ever received treatment.
"These treatment rates are slightly lower than treatment rates 10 years
earlier," write the researchers.
They see stigma as a major reason why people don’t seek treatment for
alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
"A call to action appears to be indicated to educate and update the
public and policymakers about alcohol use disorders, to destigmatize the
disorders, and to encourage help-seeking among those who cannot stop drinking
despite considerable harm to themselves and others," write Grant and
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