Americans in Denial About Alcohol Abuse Disorders

Vast Majority of Those With Drinking Problems Don't Believe They Need Help

Caroline Cassels

April 15, 2011

April 15, 2011 — When it comes to acknowledging alcohol use disorders, Americans appear to be living in the land of denial, new research suggests.

According to a spotlight report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the vast majority of US adults with alcohol problems don't recognize their need for treatment.

"SAMHSA's spotlight provides striking evidence that millions of Americans are in serious denial regarding problem drinking," said SAMHSA administrator Pamela Hyde in a statement.

The report used data from SAMHA's 2006-2009 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health reports. These surveys are conducted annually and include approximate 67,500 individuals 12 years and older throughout the United States.

The current report focuses on individuals who met diagnostic criteria for either alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition).

The report shows that of 7.4 million adults who met criteria for alcohol abuse, only 87,000 (1.2%) perceived a need for treatment. Similarly, among 5.6 million who met criteria for alcohol dependence, only 7.8% perceived a need for treatment.

"Without help, alcoholism can be fatal. As a nation we need to ask ourselves why we stand by and allow so many people to self-destruct before intervening," said Ms. Hyde.

She added that screening for alcohol problems should be "the norm — just like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes."

A copy of the report is accessible on the SAMHSA Web site.

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