Most Who Drink Excessively Are Not Alcoholics
A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, working alongside The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that 9 of 10 people who are considered excessive drinkers do not suffer from alcohol dependence. For the purposes of defining excessive drinking, this includes binge drinking, consuming 8 or more weekly drinks for women or 15 or more weekly drinks for men and any pregnant women or underage Individuals consuming alcohol.
According to the study, which Sampled Over 130,000 adults in the United States over the age of 18, approximately 1 in 3 adults drinks excessively, while 1 in 30 adults is alcohol dependent. The study also showed the frequency of binge drinking and amount of alcohol consumed directly affects the number of adults with alcohol dependence.
Our Take: We mustn’t let this study lull us into a false sense of security. After all, it still shows that approximately 1 in 30 US adults are alcohol dependent, which can be extrapolated to over 8 million people according 2013 US Census Bureau figures. In addition, many of those who suffer from alcohol dependence do not receive appropriate treatment or care, which contributes to the significant social, physical and emotional negative effects of alcohol abuse.
Further, this study is simply a snapshot of one point in time. It does not accurately track those who are binge drinking to see if they ultimately become dependent on alcohol at some point in the future. Since one of the main tenets of successful alcohol abuse treatment is early detection, understanding that earlier intervention is beneficial is a very important piece of the puzzle that is missing from the study.
While we advocate for administrative measures to curtail excessive drinking, we believe it is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that alcoholism is a progressive disease that can start relatively innocuously. The emotional and psychological triggers behind excessive alcohol consumption are often the same ones that lead to alcoholism. As such, we hope that the CDC and SAMHSA will provide more and longer-term evidence-based studies that give us clearer epidemiological evidence for alcoholic abuse.