Alcohol problems hit nearly 1 in 3 adults

A new, large-scale survey of U.S. adults finds that about 30 percent report having engaged in harmful patterns of alcohol consumption. Nearly 18 percent cite past or current alcohol abuse, which includes repeatedly missing work because of inebriation and driving while drunk. Another 12.5 percent have grappled with alcohol dependence, which typically includes a need to drink increasing amounts of alcohol and the emergence of physical withdrawal symptoms when sober.

Bridget F. Grant of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Bethesda, Md., and her colleagues analyzed data from interviews conducted in 2001 and 2002 with 43,093 adults chosen to represent the whole U.S. population.

Serious alcohol problems had afflicted 8.5 percent of the subjects during the 12 months prior to interviews. Slightly more than half of that group reported symptoms of alcohol abuse, and the rest had experienced alcohol dependence.

Alcohol dependence occurred most frequently among men, whites, Native Americans, poor people, and young, unmarried adults. Moreover, alcohol abuse and dependence often accompanied illicit-drug abuse, heavy cigarette smoking, and various mood, anxiety, and personality disorders.

The new findings appear in the July Archives of General Psychiatry.

Bruce Bower

Bruce Bower has written about the behavioral sciences for Science News since 1984. He writes about psychology, anthropology, archaeology and mental health issues.

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