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The Nation

Alcohol abusers not seeking help

Study finds just 1 in 4 look for support, often waiting 10 years from the disorder's onset.

July 05, 2007|Christina Hernandez | Newsday

MELVILLE, N.Y. — The vast majority of adult Americans who abuse alcohol never seek treatment, according to a new government public health survey.

The survey, the first of its kind by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in 10 years, presents a full picture of alcohol disorders in the country.

The survey, which breaks down rates of alcohol abuse by age, race, socioeconomic group and other factors, also found that 30.3% of adults have abused alcohol or suffered from alcoholism at some point in their lives.

One of the more striking findings from the interviews was the low numbers of people who seek treatment for alcohol disorders.

Only 24% of those who suffer from alcoholism ever seek treatment. This rate was slightly higher a decade ago. And of those who do seek help, the average age is 32.1 -- 10 years following the typical onset of alcoholism for those in the study.

As for alcohol abusers -- those whose excessive drinking leads to personal and professional problems -- just 7% seek treatment, with an average lag time of eight years between the onset of abuse and treatment.

The stigma surrounding alcohol abuse stops many from admitting the problem and seeking help, said Barbara Keller, director of the Suffolk Coalition to Prevent Alcohol and Drug Dependency on Long Island. "Because there is tremendous denial, it's just very painful to do the intervention that's needed," she said.

The National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions was compiled from approximately 43,000 random interviews with people 18 and older in 2001 and 2002.

Of men surveyed, 42% had an alcohol disorder in their lifetime, compared with 19.5% of women.

Alcoholism is much more prevalent among men, whites, American Indians, and younger and unmarried adults, the survey found.

Over a lifetime, single and married men had virtually identical rates of alcohol abuse and alcoholism, about 31%.

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism rates were more prevalent at higher income levels. Of those making less than $20,000 a year, rates of alcohol disorders were 23.9%. For earners of $70,000 and above, the rate was 41.4%.

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