Alcohol Survey Reveals 'Lost Decade' Between Ages Of Disorder Onset And Treatment

Armen Hareyan's picture

Alcohol use disorder

At some time during their lives, more than 30 percent of U.S. adults surveyed in 2001-2002 had met current diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder.

Many of those persons never received treatment, and many others did not receive treatment until well after alcohol use disorder onset.

Of those with alcohol dependence, only 24.1 percent had received any type of treatment, broadly defined to include treatment either by a physician or other health professional, or by 12-step programs, crisis centers, employee assistance programs, or others. Of those with alcohol abuse, only 7.0 percent had received treatment. Although average age of alcohol dependence onset was 22.5 years, average age of first treatment was 29.8-a lag time of 8 years. Average age of alcohol abuse onset was 21.9 years, but average age of first treatment was 32.1-a lag time of 10 years.

"A lost decade between AUD onset and treatment leads to personal disability and societal damage," according to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Director Ting-Kai Li, M.D. "Today's report signals the need for intensive efforts to educate professionals and the public to identify and address AUDs early in their course."


Age of disorder onset, related disability, and treatment age and type are several of multiple new analyses from the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a representative survey that involved 43,000 face-to-face interviews of noninstitutionalized U.S. civilians aged 18 years and older.

Conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) with supplemental support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the NESARC is the largest study ever conducted on the co-occurrence of alcohol use, drug use, and related psychiatric conditions among gender, age and ethnic subgroups, including minority subgroups (i.e., Asian Americans, Native Americans) not previously studied in sufficient numbers to permit comorbidity analyses. Also for the first time, the authors examine specific and some rare psychiatric conditions that frequently co-occur with AUDs, exclude other psychiatric disorders due to substance use or other medical conditions, and control for the comorbidity of disorders with each other.

"NESARC data can be used by researchers and health professionals to target preventive and treatment interventions for populations at greatest risk," Dr. Li noted. "They also can be used by policy makers and providers to plan and allocate treatment resources, and by scientists to explore the common and independent biological and psychosocial factors that underlie AUDs and related psychiatric diagnoses."

Conclusions from the 2001-2002 NESARC include

Sociodemographic correlates

Probability of lifetime alcohol abuse is greater among persons aged 30-64 years-the baby boom and generation X cohorts


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