Prevalence and Impact of Alcohol Dependence
J Clin Psychiatry 2006;67(suppl 14):6-13
© Copyright 2014 Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.
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Alcohol dependence has a high prevalence in the United States, with approximately 18 million
people dependent on or abusing alcohol. Misuse of alcohol is associated with great financial costs and
high rates of morbidity and mortality. Alcohol disorders can be treated as effectively as other chronic
diseases, such as asthma, diabetes, or coronary heart disease, yet problem drinking is not well recognized
and remains undertreated. Although validated screening instruments and biochemical markers
can help identify patients with drinking disorders, many physicians are unaware of their patients’ hazardous,
abusive, or dependent alcohol use. Research shows that early screening is feasible, has proved
useful in helping make a diagnosis of alcoholism, and can have significant benefit on health care
costs. Like other chronic relapsing conditions, alcohol disorders are both preventable and treatable.
Early screening has great potential to decrease alcohol-induced health risks and economic burden.
Clinicians should routinely screen persons for alcohol use to identify not only those with alcohol dependence
but also early-stage problem drinkers.