Everyone has seen the people at a restaurant or bar that seem unstoppable when it comes to drinking alcohol. The debate is whether they were blessed with high tolerance or developed a tolerance through multiple nights of heavy drinking. Some may worry that it is the latter and that the drinker’s prowess may be a sign that he or she is struggling with alcohol dependence. Contrary to popular belief though, a recent study has found that the person who can drink with the best of them probably isn’t alcohol dependent.
While many individuals may think that those who drink excessively do so because they are alcohol dependent, a study has proved otherwise. Only 10.3 percent of excessive drinkers are actually alcohol dependent, meaning 89.7 percent who drink excessively are not. To put it simply, nine out of 10 excessive drinkers are not dependent on alcohol. However, excessive drinking has been found to increase the incidence of alcohol dependence among drinkers.
These statistics were released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and appeared in the CDC’s journal Preventing Chronic Disease. The study is called “Prevalence of Alcohol Dependence among U.S. Adult Drinkers, 2009-2011” and analyzed data from the 138,000 adults who had responded to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The study assessed drinking patterns by sociodemographic characteristics and whether or not the patterns met the criteria for dependence according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. The drinking patterns that were assessed included past-year drinking (having consumed at least one drink within the past 12 months), excessive drinking (binge drinking, heavy drinking, drinking in the past 30 days by any respondents 18 to 20 years of age, or drinking within the past 30 days by any pregnant women) and alcohol dependence. Alcohol dependence was defined as drinking within the past years that met three or more dependence criteria, which include tolerance, withdrawal, impaired control, unsuccessful attempts to cut down on or stop drinking, continuing use despite problems, neglecting activities and spending time doing alcohol-related activities. These criteria, along with sociodemographic criteria, such as sex, age, race/ethnicity/education, annual family income and employment status, allowed researchers to analyze the data from 138,000 adult respondents to see what the prevalence of alcohol dependence was in their lives.
The study’s results determined that, from 2009 to 2011, there was a prevalence of 70.5 percent of past-year drinking, 29.3 percent of past-month excessive drinking, 27.4 percent of binge drinking and 3.5 percent of alcohol dependence in adults. Overall, one in three adults is an excessive drinker and many binge drink, but only one in 30 adults meets the criteria for alcohol dependence. Around 10 percent of binge drinkers and excessive drinkers and 1.3 percent of non-binge drinkers are alcohol dependent. Numbers also varied according to different races, ages, education levels and other sociodemographic criteria. This means that the prevalence of excessive drinking is highest among men, individuals aged 18 to 24 and those who were unemployed, whereas binge drinking was higher among Pacific Islanders and non-Hispanic whites. In addition to this, the study also pointed to the fact that alcohol dependence among current drinkers was highest among American Indians and Alaskan Natives.
This research has revealed that excessive drinking may not necessarily mean dependence, but can increase the risk of dependence later on. The information can also be extremely helpful for the medical and treatment industry in preventing alcohol dependence by providing individual screenings for signs of addiction. This way, patients can recognize the signs and start receiving help sooner, improving their quality of life by cutting down or halting their drinking altogether.
For those who are struggling with alcohol dependence or know someone who is, detox and comprehensive treatment can help reduce the risk of relapse. To learn more about alcohol addiction treatment you can visit prod.sovcal.com or call (866) 819-0427 for more information.
Written by Brianna Gibbons, Sovereign Health Group writer