Drunk drivers tow mental load

People convicted of drunk driving may often need help not only for their alcohol

problems but for illicit-drug abuse and other psychiatric disorders as well, a new

study suggests.

Psychiatrist Sandra C. Latham of the Behavioral Health Research Center of the

Southwest in Albuquerque and her coworkers interviewed 612 women and 493 men, ages

23 to 54, about 5 years after their drunk-driving convictions. About 90 percent of

the participants reported having abused alcohol at some time in their lives,

Latham’s team reports in the October Archives of General Psychiatry. About one-third of both the men and women also cited past bouts of illicit-drug dependence. For those who had abused alcohol, half the women and one-third of the men had suffered other mental ailments, mainly post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression.

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