People tend to describe a person who drinks too much as an alcoholic but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it is not always the case.
The CDC said on Thursday that nine in 10 adults who consume too much alcohol are neither alcoholic nor alcohol dependent although one in three U.S. adults drink excessive amounts of alcohol based on a new study published in the CDC journal Preventing Chronic Disease on Nov. 20.
For the new study, Robert Brewer, from the CDC, and colleagues analyzed self-reported data of more than 138,000 adults in 50 states and Washington, DC, who took part in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2009, 2010, or 2011.
The researchers found that 90 percent of the excessive drinkers fall short of the criteria for alcohol dependence, which is marked by the inability to stop or reduce drinking, cravings to drink, spending excessive time drinking daily, and continuing to drink regardless that this already causes work and family problems.
"This study shows that, contrary to popular opinion, most people who drink too much are not alcohol dependent or alcoholics," Brewer said. "It also emphasizes the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to reducing excessive drinking that includes evidence-based community strategies, screening and counseling in healthcare settings, and high-quality substance abuse treatment for those who need it."
Men who have at least 15 drinks per week and women who have at least eight drinks per week are considered as heavy drinkers and the study found that one in three adults fall into this category but while most of excessive drinkers are not necessarily alcoholic, most are binge drinkers and have increased risks for premature death.
Excessive drinking is attributed for 88,000 deaths per year. The CDC said that consuming too much alcohol over time could result in deaths due to breast cancer, heart disease and liver disease, which could be consequences of too much alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol consumption can also result in early demise due to violence, vehicular accidents and alcohol poisoning.
The odds of becoming an alcohol dependent also rise with the amount of alcohol consumed with the researchers finding an association between binge drinking frequency and alcohol dependence.
"Excessive drinking, binge drinking, and alcohol dependence were most common among men and those aged 18 to 24," Brewer and colleagues wrote. "The prevalence of alcohol dependence was 10.2% among excessive drinkers, 10.5% among binge drinkers, and 1.3% among non-binge drinkers."