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Many Drivers Convicted of DUI Have Lifelong Struggle With Heavy Drinking

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Almost half of adults with a drunk driving conviction said they had been struggling with heavy drinking for a long time, or had resumed heavy drinking after trying to quit or reduce their alcohol use, a new study finds.

The study of 696 adults with a drunk driving conviction found 19 percent reported a lifetime of heavy drinking, while 25 percent had resumed heavy drinking again after at least one period of abstinence or moderate drinking, Reuters reports.

The researchers write in the journal Addiction that there could be long-lasting benefits from using heavy drinkers’ convictions to get them into treatment.

The researchers found 13 percent had varying drinking patterns throughout their lives, while 14 percent had successfully cut down from heavy drinking to more moderate drinking. In addition, 21 percent had stopped drinking after some period of heavy drinking. Between one-fifth and one-third of chronically heavy drinkers met the definition for alcohol or drug dependence, or for mental health disorders such as depression.

Women were considered heavy or “risky” drinkers if they regularly had more than seven drinks a week, or four or more drinks a day. Men were considered risky drinkers if they had more than 14 drinks a week, or five or more drinks a day. Those who began risky drinking at age 15 or later quit at double the rate of those who began before age 15. While women’s and men’s drinking patterns were similar, women tended to begin risky drinking at a later age, and more often were able to quit.

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