HealthDay News — Nearly 30% of Americans have a problem with alcohol at some point in their lives, ranging from binge drinking to full-blown alcoholism, but less than 20% are ever treated, a new study found.

Alcohol-use disorders are among the most common mental health problems worldwide and result in disability, illness and death, researchers from the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) said.

The report was published online in JAMA Psychiatry.

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“Alcohol disorders cost the United States $224 billion a year,” said NIAAA Director George Koob. “Seventy percent of Americans drink and most don’t have a problem, but there is a significant group that do have a problem.” 

For the study, a research team led by Bridget Grant, PhD, used data from a 2012-2013 national survey of more than 36,000 adults.

The researchers relied on a new way of compiling data on alcohol abuse based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), a manual used by psychiatrists. The changes included eliminating separate categories for alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. They were combined into a single “alcohol-use disorder” diagnosis. This increased the number of people diagnosed with a drinking problem, Koob said.

Researchers also found that:

  • White and Native American men had the highest rates of lifetime drinking problems — 33% and 43%, respectively.
  • Thirty-seven percent of people aged 18 to 29, and 34% of those between 30 and 44 years had lifetime alcohol disorders.
  • People previously married or who were never married had high rates of lifetime alcohol problems — 27% and 35.5%, respectively.
  • Alcohol abuse was associated with other problems, including major depressive and bipolar disorders, and antisocial and borderline personality disorders.


Grant BF. Epidemiology of DSM-5 Alcohol Use Disorder: Results From the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions III. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015; doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.0584.