US Alcohol Dependence Study

Prevalence of Alcohol Dependence Among US Adult Drinkers, 2009–2011

According to a new study published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of the one-third of US adults who drink excessively only 10% are alcohol dependent and in need of alcohol treatment. The remaining 90%, because they are not dependent, are unlikely to benefit from treatment interventions. The study’s authors suggest that persons who drink alcohol excessively are more likely to reduce their drinking as a result of policies that reduce availability and access to alcohol such as increased taxes, restrictions on supply and holding the drink-serving industry liable for damages caused as a result of excessive alcohol consumption.

According to the study’s co-author, Dr. Robert Brewer, the study “shows that, contrary to popular opinion, most people who drink too much are not alcohol dependent or alcoholics,” and the study also “emphasizes the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to reducing excessive drinking that includes evidence-based community strategies, screening and counseling in healthcare settings, and high-quality substance abuse treatment for those who need it.”  The study is likely to give comfort to public health strategists who advocate for more emphasis on population-based strategies than on interventions more narrowly focused on persons with addiction problems. The study is available at the CDC site.