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Health Agencies Update
August 22/29, 2007

Alcoholism Subtypes

JAMA. 2007;298(8):853. doi:10.1001/jama.298.8.853-b

Scientists from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) have identified 5 distinct subtypes of alcoholism, some of which defy the traditional stereotype of alcoholism.

In the past, efforts to identify subtypes of alcoholism have relied on data from individuals receiving treatment for the condition. But only about 25% of alcoholics ever receive treatment (Dawson DA et al. Addiction. 2005;100[3]:281-292), so subtypes derived from samples of individuals in treatment are likely to be skewed. To get a representative picture of alcoholism subtypes, the NIAAA scientists analyzed the responses of nearly 1500 individuals with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(Fourth Edition) (DSM-IV) alcohol dependence who responded to the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, a nationally representative survey of more than 40 000 U S residents. They found that nearly 20% of individuals with alcohol dependence are highly functional, are well educated, and have high incomes (Moss HB et al. Drug Alcohol Depend. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2007.05.016 [In press]). Analysis of the data revealed that the individuals could be grouped into 5 subtypes: young adult, young antisocial, functional, intermediate familial, and chronic severe. More information about the subtypes is available at http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/jun2007/niaaa-28.htm.

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