One-third of Americans abuse alcohol: survey
CHICAGO – Nearly one in three Americans abuse or become dependent on alcohol over the course of their lives, and most never seek treatment, according to a study published on Monday. It found that 17.8 percent said they had abused alcohol at some point over the course of their lives and another 12.5 percent said they were dependent on it at some point, for a total of 30.3 percent.
At the time of the survey 4.7 percent said they had abused alcohol in the past year and 3.8 percent said they were alcohol-dependent in the previous 12 months.
And just about a quarter, 24 percent, are ever treated for it, the researchers reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
“Alcohol use disorders continue to present a widespread and serious personal and public health problem in the United States,” Deborah Hasin of Columbia University Medical Center in New York and colleagues wrote.
They based their findings on a survey of 43,093 U.S. adults who were questioned in person in 2001 and 2002.
“Alcohol dependence was significantly more prevalent among men, whites, Native Americans, younger and unmarried adults and those with lower incomes,” Hasin’s team wrote.
“The duration of alcohol disorders was often chronic, with a mean of nearly four years for alcohol dependence,” they added.
“The disorders were associated with significant disability.”
Most people reported developing a disorder young — at 21 or 22, the researchers found.
Alcohol abuse can lead to car crashes, domestic violence, birth defects and economic costs.
The researchers used the definition of alcohol abuse or dependence found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition.
It includes having or more of the following for a year:
— Role Impairment (e.g. failed work or home obligations) — Hazardous use (e.g. driving while intoxicated) — Legal problems related to alcohol use — Social or interpersonal problems due to alcohol
Alcohol dependence is defined as having three or more of the following for a year:
— Tolerance (increased drinking to achieve same effect) — Alcohol withdrawal signs or symptoms — Drinking more than intended — Unsuccessful attempts to cut down on use — Excessive time lost related to alcohol (hangovers etc) — Impaired social or work activities due to alcohol — Use despite physical or psychological consequences
Binge drinking is defined as having more than four drinks during a single occasion for men or more than 3 drinks during a single occasion for women.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 2001, 75,000 people died because of excessive alcohol use.