This commentary discusses the implications of an epidemiological study published in JAMA Psychiatry that investigated the prevalence, psychiatric comorbidity, and treatment of alcohol use disorders.
Epidemiology of DSM-5 Alcohol Use Disorder: Results From the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III
Importance National epidemiologic information from recently collected data on the new DSM-5 classification of alcohol use disorder (AUD) using a reliable, valid, and uniform data source is needed.
Objective To present nationally representative findings on the prevalence, correlates, psychiatric comorbidity, associated disability, and treatment of DSM-5 AUD diagnoses overall and according to severity level (mild, moderate, or severe).
Design, Setting, and Participants We conducted face-to-face interviews with a representative US noninstitutionalized civilian adult (≥18 years) sample (N = 36 309) as the 2012-2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III (NESARC-III). Data were collected from April 2012 through June 2013 and analyzed in October 2014.
Main Outcomes and Measures Twelve-month and lifetime prevalences of AUD.
Results Twelve-month and lifetime prevalences of AUD were 13.9% and 29.1%, respectively. Prevalence was generally highest for men (17.6% and 36.0%, respectively), white (14.0% and 32.6%, respectively) and Native American (19.2% and 43.4%, respectively) respondents, and younger (26.7% and 37.0%, respectively) and previously married (11.4% and 27.1%, respectively) or never married (25.0% and 35.5%, respectively) adults. Prevalence of 12-month and lifetime severe AUD was greatest among respondents with the lowest income level (1.8% and 1.5%, respectively). Significant disability was associated with 12-month and lifetime AUD and increased with the severity of AUD. Only 19.8% of respondents with lifetime AUD were ever treated. Significant associations were found between 12-month and lifetime AUD and other substance use disorders, major depressive and bipolar I disorders, and antisocial and borderline personality disorders across all levels of AUD severity, with odds ratios ranging from 1.2 (95% CI, 1.08-1.36) to 6.4 (95% CI, 5.76-7.22). Associations between AUD and panic disorder, specific phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder were modest (odds ratios ranged from 1.2 [95% CI, 1.01-1.43] to 1.4 [95% CI, 1.13-1.67]) across most levels of AUD severity.
Conclusions and Relevance Alcohol use disorder defined by DSM-5 criteria is a highly prevalent, highly comorbid, disabling disorder that often goes untreated in the United States. The NESARC-III data indicate an urgent need to educate the public and policy makers about AUD and its treatment alternatives, to destigmatize the disorder, and to encourage those who cannot reduce their alcohol consumption on their own, despite substantial harm to themselves and others, to seek treatment.
JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(8):757-766. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.0584