June 05, 2015
1 min read

Majority of adults with alcohol use disorder do not seek treatment

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Researchers found that the prevalence of 12-month and lifetime alcohol use disorder affect over 32 million and 68 million adults, respectively, in the U.S., but only a small percent of these individuals ever receive treatment, according to recently published data in JAMA Psychiatry. 

“Alcohol use disorder define by DSM-5 criteria is a highly prevalent, highly comorbid, disabling disorder that often goes untreated in the United States,” Bridget F. Grant, PhD, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, and colleagues wrote.

From April 2012 to June 2013, researchers conducted The National Epidemiological Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions III (NESARC III), consisting of in-person interviews of 36,309 participants, to quantify the overall lifetime and 12-month diagnoses of DSM-5 alcohol use disorder (AUD), as well as the correlates, psychiatric comorbidities, related disabilities and disorder severity levels.

Results demonstrated that the prevalence of 12-month AUD was 13.9%, while the lifetime prevalence was 29.1%, among U.S. adults in 2013.

Rates of both 12-month and lifetime AUD were highest among Native American (19.2% and 43.4%, respectively) and White populations (14% and 32.6%, respectively), as well as among men (17.6% and 36%, respectively).

The mean age for AUD onset was 26.2 years, however, younger adults were more likely to have severe AUD, compared with those aged 25.9 years and older.

Substance use disorders, depression, bipolar and antisocial disorders and borderline personality disorder were all significantly associated with both 12-month and lifetime AUD. Modest associations were found between 12-month and lifetime AUD and panic disorder, specific phobias and generalized anxiety disorder.

Treatment was only reported by 19.8% of participants with lifetime AUD.

The researchers noted that those with AUD are often untreated due to fear of being stigmatized, as well as lack of faith in treatment efficacy, not due to lack of insurance.

“Most importantly, this study highlighted the urgency of educating the public and policymakers about AUD and its treatments, destigmatizing the disorder and encouraging among those who cannot reduce their alcohol consumption on their own, despite substantial harm to themselves and others, to seek treatment,” Grant and colleagues concluded. – by Casey Hower

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.