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Most Alcohol Abusers Don’t Think They Need Treatment


Only 1.2 percent of the 7.4 million American adults whose alcohol abuse is untreated think they need help, a new report shows. The results were released by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as part of National Alcohol Screening Day on Thursday, HealthDay reports.

The findings come from SAMHSA’s 2006-2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The survey also found that only 7.8 percent of the nearly 6 million American adults with untreated alcohol dependence, which is more serious than alcohol abuse, realize they need treatment. SAMHSA says the results indicate the need for increasing public awareness about adult problem drinking, identifying people with an alcohol problem, raising the issue with problem drinkers and knowing how to get help.

SAMHSA promoted an alcohol screening tool,, as part of Alcohol Screening Day. SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., said in a press release, “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.”

3 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of meltee
    meltee / April 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    We’ve known for years that addicts are in denial, and lots of other studies have shown similar perceptions about need for treatment.
    The typical reaction is likely “we need to work harder to convince more people to seek treatment.” However, I can’t help but wonder if there might not be another way to think about this. Perhaps everyone with a use problem does not need treatment. Maybe changing social environments is all that is needed. Witness the tens of thousands of heroin users back from Nam, most of whom abandoned use when back in the States. Of course, change may have to be substantial, and even that would not work for everyone, but still works. The idea of creating more positive environments is a core feature of many recovery efforts, it is also at the heart of prevention. Perhaps it could be a “treatment” strategy as well.

  2. Sandra Streifel / April 9, 2011 at 9:26 am

    I called AA because my husband told me I had to control my binge drinking or he was going to leave, and the way he said it, I knew he meant it. There was lots he didn’t know about. I knew I’d tried every strategy I could think of, but I didn’t have to think about it much, except the next day.
    I wouldn’t have scored my alcohol use as abnormal, even though I had the information and knowledge to know it was, but optimistic denial kept me from knowing or admitting it even to an anonymous survey, so I think that many of the 97.8% with untreated alcohol abuse may respond to pressure from family, friends, or employers who are hesitant to complain.

  3. Avatar of kari kepic
    kari kepic / April 8, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    I am a mother of a 24 year old son diagnosed with BiPolar Disorder from age 11. We have had an alchohol abuse situation for many years now (around age 17)and I am constantly searching for a way to promote rehab situations for him. He now would fall into the category of alchohol addiction/dependence but refuses any conversation on getting help. He has many other comorbidity issues and getting a handle on the abuse would be such a help for him. I have talked with psychiatrist and primary care doctor but without any helpful suggestions except to kick him out. Any thoughts you could shed on this would be greatly appreciated.

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