Alcohol-Related Problems Common, Yet Alcohol Use Disorder Undertreated

According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 14.5 million (nearly 15 million) people ages 12 and older met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) criteria for past-year alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Clearly, the scope of alcohol problems in the U.S. population is large. However, NSDUH data indicate that less than 10 percent of people with past-year AUD receive any treatment. To address this problem, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has developed The Healthcare Professional’s Core Resource on Alcohol, also known as HPCR.

Studies have shown that people with AUD are more likely to seek care from a primary care provider for an alcohol-related medical problem rather than to directly address their alcohol use problems. HPCR contains information about alcohol problems and how primary care providers and other healthcare professionals can help patients who drink too much overcome barriers to treatment.

Please see the article, New NIAAA Resource Helps Healthcare Professionals Provide Better Alcohol-Related Care, for more information about the valuable new resource.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ). 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Table 5.4A—Alcohol Use Disorder in Past Year Among Persons Aged 12 or Older, by Age Group and Demographic Characteristics: Numbers in Thousands, 2018 and 2019. Accessed July 6, 2022.

Population prevalence estimates (%) are weighted by the person-level analysis weight and derived from the data set, defining “any treatment” as treatment or counseling designed to help reduce or stop alcohol use, including detoxification and any other treatment for medical problems associated with alcohol use, as well as defining AUD as alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence according to the DSM-IV. SAMHSA, CBHSQ. 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH-2019-DS0001). Accessed December 8, 2020.

Rehm, J.; Anderson, P.; Manthey, J.; Shield, K.D.; Struzzo, P.; Wojnar, M.; and Gual, A. Alcohol use disorders in primary health care: What do we know and where do we go? Alcohol and Alcoholism 51(4):422–427, 2016. PMID: 26574600

O’Connor, P.G.; Nyquist, J.G.; and McLellan, A.T. Integrating addiction medicine into graduate medical education in primary care: The time has come. Annals of Internal Medicine 154(1):56–59, 2011. PMID: 21200039


This article first appeared in NIAAA Spectrum.

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