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A National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Suggests One-Third of Adults are "Risky Drinkers"

According to an April 2, 2003 press release of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), as many as one-third of Americans may be engaging in drinking practices that place them at heightened risk for the medical disorders alcohol dependence (alcoholism) and alcohol abuse. According to NIAAA Director, Ting-Kai Li, M.D., "[Adults] unknowingly use alcohol in ways that pose risks to health, perhaps by drinking during pregnancy, or while using a medication that interacts harmfully with alcohol. Furthermore, individual drinkers may respond differently to the same amount of alcohol on the basis of genetic and other physical differences, age, gender, health status, drinking practices and many other factors that are the focus of ongoing research.

In an analysis by the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (NLAES), a representative nationwide household survey of 42,862 U.S. adults aged 18 and older conducted in 1992, NIAAA researchers examined the NLAES data using the alcohol screening cut points (for men, no more than 14 drinks per week and four on any day; for women, no more than seven drinks per week and three on any day) and found that almost one-third of the 1992 adult population exceeded these limits, some occasionally, some often. As a group, their risk for alcohol disorders was markedly higher than the risk for drinkers who stayed within the screening limits. Nearly one in four persons who exceeded the limits met the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence, compared with fewer than one in 100 people who drank less.

The analysis is contained in the first edition of Helping Patients with Alcohol Problems: A Health Practitioner's Guide, developed by NIAAA with a panel of primary care experts and disseminated for use in screening and brief intervention at all National Alcohol Screening Day (NASD) sites. Practitioners also may access the document at www.niaaa.nih.gov .

Research over the past 30 years has contributed important information about the risks and benefits of alcohol to health and the consequences of drinking more than moderate amounts. More than 30 studies indicate that screening and brief intervention for alcohol problems is an effective means of preventing addiction and other serious problems.

(Excerpted from the April 2, 2003 Press Release, Fifth National Screening Day To Focus Americans on Alcohol and Health:  NIAAA Analysis Suggests One-Third of Adults Are "Risky" Drinkers, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/)


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Free To Grow is a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.