“Problem” Drinkers Drink Less over Time
Alcohol dependence can be a chronic illness, and it is often thought that risky or “problem” use leads to dependence if not addressed. However, few reports using population-based data inform us as to how accurate this assumption is. Investigators conducted in-person interviews with 672 people in northern California identified as problem drinkers* via random-digit-dial telephone screening. Interviews took place in 7 waves over 11 years. Twenty percent of the sample met criteria for alcohol dependence. The mean age of participants was 35; 39% were female, 71% were white, and 40% were married.
- On average, drinking declined over time from 4 to 2 drinks per day for men and 2 to 1 drink per day for women. No more than 10% abstained. Most of the reduction occurred in the first year, with little or no change occurring in the last 6 years.
- Having a heavy-drinking network, suggestions to get help for drinking, and going into treatment were associated with more drinking, while having contact with community agencies and going to Alcoholics Anonymous were associated with less drinking.