14 Percent of Americans Have Alcohol Use Disorder

Older Man Drinking 6-4-15

A new study finds 14 percent of American adults currently have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Many have never been treated, Time reports. Thirty percent of those interviewed said they had an alcohol-related problem at some time in their lives.

Researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) looked at drinking problems based on a new definition for alcohol use disorders in the DSM-5, the handbook used by health care professionals to diagnose mental disorders. The handbook defines an alcohol use disorder as having two of 11 symptoms, including continuing to drink even if it harms relationships, drinking that harms performance at work or school, or the inability to quit. The more symptoms a person has, the more severe their AUD.

The study, based on interviews with more than 36,000 adults, appears in JAMA Psychiatry. Only 20 percent of those with an alcohol-related problem said they had sought treatment. The researchers noted they saw large increases in alcohol use disorder rates over the past decade.

Men were more likely than women to have problems with alcohol, the article notes. Among 18- to 29-year-old men, about 7 percent showed symptoms of the more severe form of AUD.

“These findings underscore that alcohol problems are deeply entrenched and significantly under-treated in our society,” NIAAA Director George F. Koob, PhD, 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.”