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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2001 Jan;25(1):1-8.

A comparison of correlates of DSM-IV alcohol abuse or dependence among more than 400 sons of alcoholics and controls.

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Department of Psychiatry, Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, and the University of California 92161-2002, USA.



Alcohol dependence and abuse are defined as separate disorders. However, relatively few data are available about whether the same characteristics predict both syndromes.


Complete data were available from the 15 year follow-up of 411 men who originally had been evaluated from a university population at about age 20. Both baseline data gathered prospectively and the retrospective ratings in six domains of life functioning were analyzed for their relationship to the development of alcohol abuse or dependence during the follow-up.


Baseline characteristics of a family history of substance use disorders, the quantity and frequency of drinking, the history of alcohol-related problems, and the level of response to alcohol all predicted future alcohol abuse or dependence, but only an alcoholic second-degree relative or a first-degree drug-dependent family member differentially predicted dependence. Logistic regression analyses revealed that similar baseline characteristics combined to predict dependence and, separately, abuse. When the domains of functioning during the 15 years were included, positive alcohol expectancies, poor coping mechanisms, low level of social support, and drinking in the environment contributed to both dependence and abuse, although the relationship was stronger for dependence.


The predictors and correlates of alcohol abuse and dependence in this group of men were similar. Further research in additional populations and on other drugs is needed to determine if the two syndromes overlap sufficiently to be combined.

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