Alcohol Use Disorders on the Rise, Not Enough Getting Help, NIAAA Finds

A new study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that nearly one-third of adults in our nation have an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) at one point in their lives, a significant increase during the past 10 years. Even more concerning is that only about 20 percent of people who suffer from an AUD receive treatment.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

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

AUD is the medical diagnosis for problem drinking that causes mild to severe distress or harm. 

Researchers conducted more than 36,000 face-to-face interviews of U.S. adults, as part of the 2012-2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III (NESARC-III). NESARC III is a continuation of the largest study ever conducted on the co-occurrence of alcohol use, drug use, and related psychiatric conditions. The original NESARC survey was conducted in 2001-2002. In NESARC III, researchers assessed alcohol problems using diagnostic criteria from the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

“We found that 13.9 percent of adults met DSM-5 AUD criteria for the previous year, while 29.1 percent met AUD criteria at some time in their life,” said Bridget F. Grant, Ph.D., Ph.D., of the NIAAA Laboratory of Epidemiology and Biometry, who led the research. “Only 19.8 percent of adults with lifetime alcohol use disorder sought treatment or help, while 7.7 percent of those with a 12-month alcohol use disorder sought treatment. Perhaps most importantly, we saw large increases in DSM-IV alcohol use disorder rates over the last decade.”

Researchers noted the need for efforts aimed at educating the public about AUD and its treatment, as well as destigmatizing the disorder.

Alcohol use disorders and underage drinking will be addressed at CADCA’s Mid-Year Training Institute in Indianapolis Aug. 2-6. Click here to learn more about the training sessions and to register for this week-long training event.