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article imageMost regular drinkers are not alcohol dependent

By Tim Sandle     Dec 2, 2014 in Health
Atlanta - In the U.S., nine in 10 adults who drink alcohol above the recommended “safe” levels are not alcoholics or alcohol dependent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study.
According to the CDC, excessive drinking includes behaviours such as binge drinking. This is defined as having four or more drinks on an occasion for women, five or more drinks on an occasion for men. Also under this definition of “unhealthy” practices comes consuming eight or more drinks a week for women or 15 or more drinks a week for men. Any alcohol use by women who are pregnant or those under the minimum legal drinking age (which is relatively high at 21 in the U.S., compared to many other countries where the age is 18 or even 16) comes under this category.
Interestingly, the CDC’s inquiry has found that most of those who engage in excessive alcohol consumption are not classed as “alcoholics.” This form of alcohol dependence is a chronic medical condition where there is a strong craving for alcohol and an associated inability to control alcohol consumption.
The data suggests that almost 1 in 3 adults is an excessive drinker (often by binge drinking). In contrast, about 1 in 30 adults can be classified as alcohol dependent.
Within the figures, there is a clear division by income. The CDC found that binge drinking was most common among those with annual family incomes of $75,000 or more. In contrast, alcohol dependence was most common among those with annual family incomes of less than $25,000.
The variations across different communities suggests different strategies for tackling excessive drinking. Robert Brewer, Alcohol Program Lead at CDC notes that “This study shows that, contrary to popular opinion, most people who drink too much are not alcohol dependent or alcoholics. It also emphasizes the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to reducing excessive drinking that includes evidence-based community strategies, screening and counseling in healthcare settings, and high-quality substance abuse treatment for those who need it.”
For the study the CDC worked alongside the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The findings have been published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease. The study is titled “Prevalence of Alcohol Dependence Among US Adult Drinkers, 2009–2011.”
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