An article published in JAMA Psychiatry has shown that alcohol use disorder is widespread, but often untreated.

Bridget F. Grant, PhD, of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, and colleagues presented data on prevalence, co-existing illnesses, disability and treatment from the NIAAA 2012–2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC)-III (n=36,309). The article also evaluated previous diagnostic criteria (DSM-IV) to see changes in prevalence.

The 12-month prevalence of alcohol use disorder under DSM-5 was 13.9% and the lifetime prevalence was 29.1%. Only 19.8% of adults with lifetime alcohol use disorder obtained treatment or help, while 7.7% of those with a 12-month alcohol use disorder sought treatment. Rates according to the previous DSM-IV in the NSEARC-III were 12.7% for a 12-month prevalence of alcohol use disorder and 43.6% for lifetime prevalence of alcohol use disorder.

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Other key findings included:

  • Prevalence of alcohol use disorder was highest for respondents who were men (17.6% 12-month prevalence, 36% lifetime prevalence), who were white (14% 12-month prevalence, 32.6% lifetime prevalence) and who were Native American (19.2% 12-month prevalence, 43.4% lifetime prevalence).
  • Prevalence was also highest among respondents who were younger (26.7% 12-month prevalence, 37% lifetime prevalence) and who were previously married (11.4% 12-month prevalence, 27.1% lifetime prevalence) or never married (25% 12-month prevalence, 35.5% lifetime prevalence).
  • Alcohol use disorders were associated with other substance use disorders, major depressive and bipolar I disorders, as well as antisocial and borderline personality disorders.

Study findings show the importance in educating the public and policymakers about alcohol use disorders and its treatments, and encouraging treatment in those who cannot reduce alcohol consumption by themselves.

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