NIAA Study Of Alcoholism And Alcohol Abuse Reveals Specific Alcoholic Subtypes In America
Researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) announced in a national press release that in-depth analysis of a national sample of alcohol abusers and alcoholics has revealed five distinct subtypes of the disease. First author Howard B. Moss, M.D., NIAAA Associate Director for Clinical and Translational Research, explained the importance of the study: “Our findings should help dispel the popular notion of the ‘typical alcoholic. . . .We find that young adults comprise the largest group of alcoholics in this country, and nearly 20 percent of alcoholics are highly functional and well-educated with good incomes. More than half of the alcoholics in the United States have no multigenerational family history of the disease, suggesting that their form of alcoholism was unlikely to have genetic causes.”
ONE80CENTER And Alcoholism Treatment
The clinical staff at ONE80CENTER are not surprised by these findings. Although it has been clear for a long time that alcoholism can have a genetic component, it does not mean that all alcoholics are genetically prone to the disease or have the disease in their family history. From our clinical work, we have seen that clients with alcohol abuse histories and co-occurring disorders often do not have a history of alcoholism in their families.
NIAAA Director Dr. Ting-Kai Li added: “Clinicians have long recognized diverse manifestations of alcoholism . . . and researchers have tried to understand why some alcoholics improve with specific medications and psychotherapies while others do not. The classification system described in this study will have broad application in both clinical and research settings.”
Subtypes of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse
The researchers identified following subtypes of alcohol abuse and alcoholism based on respondents’ family history of alcoholism, age of onset of regular drinking and alcohol problems, symptom patterns of alcohol dependence and abuse, and the presence of additional substance abuse and mental disorders:
Young Adult subtype: 31.5 percent of U.S. alcoholics. Young adult drinkers, with relatively low rates of co-occurring substance abuse and other mental disorders, a low rate of family alcoholism, and who rarely seek any kind of help for their drinking.
Young Antisocial subtype: 21 percent of U.S. alcoholics. Tend to be in their mid-twenties, had early onset of regular drinking, and alcohol problems. More than half come from families with alcoholism, and about half have a psychiatric diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder. Many have major depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety problems. More than 75 percent smoked cigarettes and marijuana, and many also had cocaine and opiate addictions. More than one-third of these alcoholics seek help for their drinking.
Functional subtype: 19.5 percent of U.S. alcoholics. Typically middle-aged, well-educated, with stable jobs and families. About one-third have a multigenerational family history of alcoholism, about one-quarter had major depressive illness sometime in their lives, and nearly 50 percent were smokers.
Intermediate Familial subtype: 19 percent of U.S. alcoholics. Middle-aged, with about 50 percent from families with multigenerational alcoholism. Almost half have had clinical depression, and 20 percent have had bipolar disorder. Most of these individuals smoked cigarettes, and nearly one in five had problems with cocaine and marijuana use. Only 25 percent ever sought treatment for their problem drinking.
Chronic Severe subtype: 9 percent of U.S. alcoholics. Comprised mostly of middle-aged individuals who had early onset of drinking and alcohol problems, with high rates of Antisocial Personality Disorder and criminality. Almost 80 percent come from families with multigenerational alcoholism. They have the highest rates of other psychiatric disorders including depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders as well as high rates of smoking, and marijuana, cocaine, and opiate dependence. Two-thirds of these alcoholics seek help for their drinking problems, making them the most prevalent type of alcoholic in treatment.
Alcoholism and Co-Occurring Disorders
As the NIAA authors point out in their conclusion, co-occurring psychiatric and other substance abuse problems can enhance and intensify the severity of an individual’s alcoholism. Although these subtypes can be effective form of classification, they should not be considered absolute scientific truths. Rather, in broad strokes, they provide classification types that help to enhance discussion and make general analysis more precise. If you believe you have a problem with alcohol or a co-occurring disorder with alcohol as the secondary issue, please contact ONE80CENTER at 888.593.2301 for help and a free consultation.