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Alcohol use disorder on the increase, often untreated

One-third of all adults met the criteria for alcohol abuse disorder at some point in their lives but less than a fifth sought treatment for it, a significant statistical increase over the last decade.

By Stephen Feller
Alcohol use disorder on the increase, often untreated
Incidence of alcohol abuse disorder have increased over the last decade in the U.S., with most people who meet the criteria not seeking help for it. Photo: Phoenixns/Shutterstock

BETHESDA, Md., June 4 (UPI) -- Nearly a third of all adults in the U.S. meet the requirements of alcohol use disorder, or AUD, at some time in their lives, but less than one-fifth of those people seek treatment.

Overall rates of AUD showed significant increases over the last decade as well, according to the study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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"These findings underscore that alcohol problems are deeply entrenched and significantly under-treated in our society," said NIAAA Director George F. Koob, Ph.D., in a press release "The new data should provide further impetus for scientists, clinicians, and policy makers to bring AUD treatment into the mainstream of medical practice."

More than 36,000 people were interviewed for the national study between 2012 and 2013 for the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III, which started in 2001 to track the occurrence of alcohol use, drug use and related psychiatric conditions.

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The most recent data showed that 13.9 percent of U.S. adults met requirements for AUD in the previous year and 29.1 percent met the criteria at some point in their lives, however only 7.7 percent of those with a 12-month disorder had sought help and 19.8 percent who'd experienced in their lifetime sought help.

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The statistics from the 2012 to 2013 study are based on the definition of AUD in the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-V, which combines the alcohol abuse and dependence conditions.

Researchers found that by using the DSM-IV criteria, the 2012 to 2013 study showed that past year and lifetime occurrences of AUD were 12.7 percent and 43.6 percent. These would be notable increases, researchers said, over the 2001 to 2002 study that also was conducted using DSM-IV criteria and found rates of 8.5 percent and 30.3 percent.

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The study is published in Psychiatry.

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