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Alcohol Consumption among Problem Drinkers

Posted in Alcoholism

Alcohol consumption varies widely among individuals. Understanding changes in alcohol consumption over time is also a complex process, and in the past, most examination of the habits of problem drinkers was conducted with individuals in treatment for alcohol dependence. Those who never entered a treatment program or who made changes within the framework of a support group were not a part of the analysis.

A recent study sought to understand alcohol consumption among problem drinkers in the general population. The participants the researchers recruited were not enrolled in any treatment program. Some were positively influenced by social network strategies, such as those used in Alcoholics Anonymous.

The study was led by Kevin L. Delucchi and Lee Ann Kaskutas and focused on the natural course of alcohol use by members of the general population. The objective was to determine what factors are involved in predicting how much they drink over time.

The researchers analyzed alcohol consumption over an 11-year period in 672 randomly selected problem drinkers and alcohol dependent individuals from one U.S. county.

The results showed that though alcohol consumption declined over time and eventually leveled off, it did not reach the consumption level of the average general U.S. population.

The researchers also identified several indicators of ongoing problems with drinking. Among them were having a heavy-drinking social network and receiving suggestions from others about how to resolve heavy drinking. Enrolling in a treatment program was also an indicator of ongoing problems with drinking.

There were also trends identified that were associated with less drinking over time. The factors associated with lower levels of drinking over time were having contacts with community agencies and attending Alcoholics Anonymous.

The results of the study show that individuals with problem-drinking patterns and those who are alcohol dependent tend to continue that trend over the course of many years. Because attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous and contact with social service agencies is associated with lowering drinking rates, points of contact for the drinkers should be encouraged to be familiar and suggest these strategies for improvement.

Suggestions from family and friends that involve advice to do something about a drinking pattern and seeking treatment occur with those who show more severe problems. These strategies do not tend to be associated with a trend to less drinking over time.

The results of the study are important because they are the first to illustrate how drinking patterns change among the population not enrolled in a treatment program. The results highlight the important role that group support like Alcoholics Anonymous and social agencies play in helping problem drinkers address their drinking behaviors.