A new report based on a national survey shows that only 1.2 percent of the nation’s more than 7.4 million adults aged 21 to 64 with an untreated alcohol abuse disorder perceive they could benefit from treatment. The report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in conjunction with National Alcohol Screening Day, April 7, highlights the need to raise awareness about adult problem drinking, how to identify when someone has a problem, how to confront a problem drinker and how to get help.

The report focuses on those who met the diagnostic criteria for either alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence as defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Fourth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Alcohol abuse includes drinking-related behavior that may cause a person to physically endanger themselves or others; get into trouble with the law; experience difficulties in relationships or jobs; and fail to fulfill major role obligations at work, school or home.

Alcohol dependence is a more serious disorder than alcohol abuse. The hallmarks of this disorder are addiction to alcohol, inability to cut down or stop drinking, and repeated interpersonal, school, or work related problems that can be directly attributed to the use of alcohol. Alcohol dependence can have serious consequences, affecting an individual’s health and personal life, as well as impacting society at large. Among the nearly six million Americans aged 21 to 64 with untreated alcohol dependence, only 7.8 percent or 506,000 of them recognized they needed treatment.

“SAMHSA’s spotlight provides striking evidence that millions of Americans are in serious denial regarding problem drinking,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “Individuals, friends and family members clearly need help and support in confronting and doing something about the problem. Without help alcoholism can be fatal. As a nation we need to ask ourselves why we stand by and allow so many people to self destruct before intervening. National Alcohol Screening Day provides one day to have the conversation we should be willing to have every day until screening for alcohol problems becomes the norm – just like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.”

SAMHSA Spotlight: Most Adults with Alcohol Problems Do Not Recognize Their Need for Treatment was developed as part of the SAMHSA’s strategic initiative on Data, Outcomes and Quality. It is based on data from SAMHSA’s 2006 – 2009 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports. NSDUH is a scientifically conducted annual survey of approximately 67,500 people throughout the country, aged 12 and older. Because of its statistical power, it is the nation’s premier source of statistical information on the scope and nature of many substance abuse behavioral health issues affecting the nation.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has a very useful website “Rethinking Drinking” that has online tools that can help people better gauge whether they or someone they care about may have an alcohol problem.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA)

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