Heavy Drinkers Tend to Continue Drinking More than the General Population, Even After Reducing Their Drinking

A new study has found that while heavy drinkers may cut back on their drinking, they still tend to drink more alcohol than the average adult. Furthermore, the study found that simply telling someone they had a drinking problem wasn’t helpful, but specifying ways to get help was. This suggests that the best thing for family members and clinicians to do when trying to help a loved one with a drinking problem is to connect them with the help they need, such as addiction treatment, counseling, and support groups.

For the study, the researchers examined 672 problem drinkers and alcohol-dependent people who hadn’t participated in an alcohol treatment program for at least one year. When following up with the participants 11 years later, the researchers found that men in the study reduced their average number of drinks per month by 51 percent, and women reduced their average number of drinks per month by 57 percent. However, even with the reduction, both males and females still drank 160 and 223 percent more alcohol than the average adult without a drinking problem.

The study showed that the greatest reductions in drinking happened within one to two years after the initial screening and then slowed, which suggests that people who drink heavily or have alcohol dependency may never decrease their drinking to average levels.

Kevin L. Delucchi, Ph.D., Professor of Biostatistics in Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco and lead author of the study, said that most heavy drinkers continue drinking at the same level over time. The participants in the study were “functional” for the most part, meaning most of them hadn’t “hit bottom.”

He added that the study is one of the first to look at heavy drinking in the general population—those who haven’t been in addiction treatment programs. There are many reasons problem drinkers might not seek treatment, often times because they can’t afford it or because they are scared to ask for help.

The study also looked at factors that seem to be associated with chronic heavy drinking, and found that people who were friends with heavy drinkers or were told that they should seek help for their drinking were likely to drink more. Those who got help from community programs or Alcoholics Anonymous were likely to drink less.

Source: Science Daily, Heavy Drinkers Consume Less Over Time, but Not at 'Normal' Levels, Study Finds, October 27, 2010

Posted on October 27th, 2010
Posted in Alcohol Abuse

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