Alcohol problems have high rates of resolution success

Most studies investigating the progress of alcohol use disorders involve people in clinical treatment. In this study, researchers from the
Netherlands studied the course in the general population.

Using data from a age grouped study on mental health, researchers analyzed the prevalence, resolution, and relapse rates of alcohol use disorders over 3 years in 4214 people. Diagnoses were classified according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV), International Classification of Diseases 10 (ICD-10), and the craving withdrawal model (CWM). 

Rates of remission (full or partial) from start to the 3-year follow-up were high: 79%–92% for alcohol abuse/harmful use and 69%–74% for alcohol dependence/alcoholism. 

Rates of relapse were low: 0%–14% of subjects with remitted alcohol abuse/harmful use or dependence at year 1 relapsed by year 3. 

About 1%–5% of subjects with alcohol abuse/harmful use at baseline developed dependence/alcoholism by year 3. 

Comments:In a general population sample, alcohol use disorders have a favorable forecast and may lack the chronic relapsing nature seen in treatment samples. These findings suggest that a substantial population of patients with alcohol use disorders could respond to self-help, brief or minimal interventions in primary care or other nonspecialty settings. 

Peter Friedmann, MD, MPH. 

Reference: de Bruijn C, van den Brink W, de Graaf R, et al. The three year course of alcohol use disorders in the general population: DSM-IV, ICD-10 and the Craving Withdrawal Model. Addiction. 2006;101(3):385–392. 

From; Alcohol and health 

Professional healthcare training at  


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