Alcohol Dependence More Likely Among Mentally Ill

Fran Lowry

June 03, 2011

June 3, 2011 — Adults with mental illness are 4 times more likely to develop a dependence on alcohol than adults without mental illness, according to a new report based on data from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

The report, in a May 31, 2011, Data Spotlight from NSDUH and the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, is from a nationwide survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

It also shows that the rate of alcohol dependency rises as the severity of the mental health disorder increases.

The survey found that the rate of alcohol dependence in the past 12 months was 9.6% among adults with any mental illness but only 2.2% among adults with no mental illness.

For adults with mild mental illness, the rate of alcohol dependence was 7.9%, for those with moderate mental illness it was 10.0%, and for those with serious mental illness, it was 13.2%.

"Mental and substance use disorders often go hand in hand. This SAMHSA study adds to the evidence of this connection," SAMHSA administrator, Pamela S. Hyde, JD, said in a statement. "Co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders are to be expected, not considered the exception. Unfortunately, signs and symptoms of these behavioral health conditions are often missed by individuals, their friends and family members and unnoticed by health professionals. The results can be devastating and costly to our society."

The report calls for providers working with individuals with either substance use or a mental health problem to consider screening for a co-occurring disorder and providing an integrated treatment program.

The full report can be found online at


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.