Most people who drink to get drunk are not alcoholics, suggesting that more can be done to help heavy drinkers cut back, a new government report concludes.
The finding, from a government survey of 138,100 adults, counters the conventional wisdom that every “falling-down drunk” must be addicted to alcohol.
This is exactly the same as the conventional wisdom that “everyone who takes opioids more than 3 months is an addict”.
Too many people have been brainwashed into automatically judging today’s “too much” and “too often” as tomorrow’s “addict” as though addiction were just a matter of quantity.
Instead, the results from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that nine out of 10 people who drink too much are not addicts, and can change their behavior with a little — or perhaps a lot of — prompting.
“Many people tend to equate excessive drinking with alcohol dependence,’’ said Dr. Robert Brewer, who leads the alcohol program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Excessive drinking is defined as drinking too much at one time or over the course of a week. For men, it’s having five or more drinks in one sitting or 15 drinks or more during a week. For women, it’s four drinks on one occasion or eight drinks over the course of a week. Underage drinkers and women who drink any amount while pregnant also are defined as “excessive drinkers.”
Surprisingly, about 29 percent of the population meets the definition for excessive drinking, but 90 percent of them do not meet the definition of alcoholism.
Again, this is the same as with opioids: some percentage of patients takes high dose opioids, but only 95%-97% don’t become addicted.
That’s good news because it means excessive drinking may be an easier problem to solve than previously believed.
Studies show that simply raising the price of an alcoholic beverage by 10 percent reduces alcohol consumption by 7 percent
Dr. Brewer noted that excessive drinking is still a challenging problem, but it is not as difficult to address as alcohol addiction can be.
“I don’t want to minimize the fact that excessive drinking can be a difficult behavior to change even in those people who are not alcohol dependent,’’ said Dr. Brewer.