Antisocial Alcoholism Increasing in Men and Women
Dec. 16, 1999 (Atlanta) -- The prevalence of antisocial alcoholism may be
increasing in both men and women, according to a report in the December issue
of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & ExperimentalResearch.
Physicians say prevention and early intervention efforts are critical,
particularly for those with a family history of alcoholism.
Researchers interviewed almost 2,000 participants about their alcohol use
and family history of alcoholism. The sample was then divided into subgroups of
those born before 1930, those born between 1930 and 1949, and those born after
The data showed that those born after 1949 began using alcohol earlier, had
a higher incidence of alcoholism before the age of 25, and exhibited more
alcohol-related antisocial behavior such as fights, police involvement, or
drunk driving. Additionally, a positive family history was strongly correlated
with antisocial alcoholism, and the decreasing age of alcohol use was
especially pronounced in women.
"Changes in our society have led to an increase in behavior that was
once strongly discouraged, particularly in women," says Scott Stoltenberg,
PhD, the chief investigator. "Fifty years ago it was socially unacceptable
for women to drink in bars. Perhaps the influence of society can now be used to
decrease this behavior." Stoltenberg says a public education campaign could
help delay drinking among teenagers.
"If we can delay regular drinking until the twenties, we can prevent a
whole host of alcohol-related problems," says Stoltenberg, who is with the
department of psychiatry at the University of Michigan. "But so far, there
hasn't been any prevention efforts on a national scale. A television awareness
campaign for schoolkids could be effective especially if it focuses on family
history as a risk factor."
Psychiatrists who treat addiction agree. "Kids with a family history of
alcoholism need education from an early age," says James Parker, MD, an
addiction psychiatrist at the University of Alabama. "Instead of hiding
their history, parents need to teach kids why even moderate drinking is not
healthy for them. For this to work, though, parents have to be very open."
Psychiatrists say early intervention is also important.
"If people are aware of the danger signs, we can intervene early and
decrease progression of the disease," says Elizabeth Howell, MD, an
addiction psychiatrist at Emory University. "It often helps to remember the
warning signs as the 'Three C's': continued use in the face of adverse
consequences, compulsive behavior that centers life around drinking, and loss
of control over quantities consumed." Howell says more research is needed
for early intervention.
"Interpretation of the data is somewhat limited by the study design, but
our results are consistent with the research literature," says Stoltenberg.
"Our sample probably overrepresents men and underrepresents people born in
the '60s and '70s. Also, the findings are based on self-reported information.
So any efforts to validate the data should consider these issues and a national
community-based sample as well," he says.
The study was funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and
- The prevalence of antisocial alcoholism may be increasing among men and
women born after 1949 compared to older generations, according to a new
- Those with a positive family history of alcohol should be educated at an
early age, because it is strongly associated with developing antisocial
- Parents should not hide their history from their children, but instead
teach them why even moderate drinking can be unhealthy.