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Drinking Problem Plagues 30% Americans

A new US study estimates that about 30 per cent of Americans report have some alcohol disorder at some point of time in their lives. Over half (17.8 per cent) are due to alcohol abuse and the rest to alcohol dependence (12.5 per cent). It means that 1 out 3 persons in the US have a real problem with the bottle.

But the nature of this problem can vary widely -- from a sustained streak of binge drinking behavior all the way to serious physiological addiction to alcohol.

Columbia University Medical Centre analyzed a survey of 43,093 people done in 2001 and 2002. Dr Deborah Hasin, from the Columbia University Medical Center and her colleagues analyzed the data from face to face interviews with a representative cross section of the American population.The survey results published in the current issue of the Archives of general Psychiatry indicate many of those persons never received treatment.

People aged 30 to 44 showed the highest rate of abuse, and men were more than twice as likely as women to report struggling with a drinking problem.

People with alcohol use disorder (AUD) only 24.1 percent of people with alcohol dependence received treatment of any type. Alcohol dependence, also know as alcoholism, is characterized by impaired control over drinking, compulsive drinking, preoccupation with drinking, tolerance to alcohol and/or withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol abuse was defined as drinking tied to domestic violence, car crashes and fetal alcohol syndrome. Alcohol abuse is also characterized by failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home; interpersonal, social and legal problems; and/or drinking in hazardous situations.

They also have a negative impact on the economy and cause enormous distress and impairment said the researchers who are from Columbia University in New York, New York State Psychiatric Institute, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Health officials need to determine why increased awareness of the dangers of alcoholism and improved therapies havent spurred more treatment, said Deborah Hasin, the studys lead author. The rate of treatment has been at a standstill since the early 1990s,

Theres a lot of knowledge about how to treat. Whatever the reason, people arent getting treatment. The research found that about 18% of adults reported abusing alcohol during their lifetime, and almost 13% said they had become dependent on it.

Alcohol abuse developed at an average age of 22.5 years, but the average age of first treatment received was 29.8 years- a lag of 8 years. In contrast, the average age of alcohol abuse onset was 21.9 years and first treatment was on average received at age 32.1 - a lag of 10 years.

Delayed treatment leads to personal disability and societal damage, according to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Director Ting-Kai Li, M.D. who said Todays report signals the need for intensive efforts to educate professionals and the public to identify and address AUDs early in their course.

Treatments may include psychotherapy, support groups or other forms of counseling. Some medications are also available that can help alcoholics abstain from drinking, including naltrexone, which acts on opioid receptors in the brain.

The low number of people who sought treatment shouldnt be surprising, said John Schwarzlose, president of the Betty Ford Centre, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic in Rancho Mirage, California. We put up many obstacles, Schwarzlose said in a telephone interview. Health insurance in most cases doesnt cover adequate treatment. Corporations used to cover employees treatments, and now they no longer do.

Alcohol abuse and dependence remain highly prevalent and disabling, the authors conclude. Persistent low treatment rates given the availability of effective treatments indicate the need for vigorous education efforts for the public and professionals.


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