Few Alcoholics Realize They Need Help

Federal Report Shows That Millions of Americans With Alcohol Dependency See No Need for Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on April 08, 2011
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April 8, 2011 -- Most Americans with alcohol dependency don’t realize they need treatment and don’t believe that treatment would help, a federal report finds.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says that of the nation’s 7.4 million adults aged 21 and 64 who have an untreated alcohol abuse disorder, only 1.2% believe they could benefit from treatment.

And only 7.8% recognize that they need treatment, the SAMHSA report says.

Failure to Seek Help

The numbers mean that of an estimated 6 million Americans going untreated for alcohol dependency, only 506,000 perceive they need treatment. The findings highlight the need to raise awareness about adults with drinking problems and develop ways to identify, confront, and help problem drinkers get treatment.

The SAMHSA report says alcohol dependence is a more serious disorder than alcohol abuse.

People who are alcohol dependent are addicted to alcohol and are unable to cut down or stop drinking. Alcohol dependence can lead to interpersonal, school, or work-related problems, SAMHSA says.

It also can negatively impact society at large.

“SAMHSA’s spotlight provides striking evidence that millions of Americans are in serious denial regarding problem drinking,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, JD, says in a news release. “Individuals, friends, and family members clearly need help and support in confronting and doing something about the problem. Without help, alcoholism can be fatal.”

She says the nation needs to ask “why we stand by and allow so many people to self-destruct before intervening.”

The survey was based on interviews with about 67,500 people around the country who are age 12 or older.

SAMHSA’s Data Spotlight for April 7, 2011, says pathways to fighting alcohol problems are readily available and recommends its web site for people seeking help.