Prevalence of Alcohol Use Disorders in America

In the United States, alcohol use disorders (AUDs) affect millions of people each year, more than any other mental health disorder. While alcohol is the most commonly used mind altering substance, the number of people with an AUD who actually seek help is quite low. New research suggests the between 2012-13 there were approximately 32.6 million people with AUDs, but only 7.7 percent sought treatment for their illness, JAMA Psychiatry reports.

 What is an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?

The medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” is given when problem drinking becomes severe. In order to be diagnosed as having AUD, individuals must meet certain criteria outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5). In the 5th edition some changes were made to the criteria of AUDs, including:

  • The elimination of separate abuse and dependence diagnoses.
  • The combination of the criteria into a single alcohol use disorder diagnosis.
  • The elimination of legal problems as an indicator.
  • The addition of craving to the criteria.
  • A diagnostic threshold of at least two criteria.
  • The establishment of a severity metric based on the criteria count, i.e. mild, moderate, or severe.

The Prevalence of AUDs in America

Researcher Bridget F. Grant, Ph.D., of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD., and coauthors analyzed data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC)-III, according to the article. The total sample size was 36,309 adults.

The researchers found that, under the DSM-5, the 12-month prevalence of AUDs was 13.9 percent and the lifetime prevalence was 29.1 percent. The finding represents approximately 32.6 million and 68.5 million adults, respectively. Only 7.7 percent of people with an AUD over a 12-month period sought treatment, and only 19.8 percent of adults with lifetime AUDs sought help.

Young Adults With AUDs

The study showed that the prevalence of AUDs was highest among male respondents (17.6 percent 12-month prevalence, 36 percent lifetime prevalence), as well as who those who were younger (26.7 percent 12-month prevalence, 37 percent lifetime prevalence).

“Most importantly, this study highlighted the urgency of educating the public and policy makers about AUD [alcohol use disorder] 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,” the study concludes.

Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

If you are a young adult struggling with alcohol, and potentially meet the criteria of an alcohol use disorder, we encourage you to take a look at our Young Adult Recovery Track. Our program focuses on the specific needs of young people looking to find a new way of life through recovery.

Addiction and recovery news provided by Harmony Foundation