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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1996 Jun;20(4):771-9.

Correlates of past-year status among treated and untreated persons with former alcohol dependence: United States, 1992.

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Division of Biometry and Epidemiology, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-7003, USA.


Past-year status was investigated in a sample of 4,585 adults with prior DSM-IV alcohol dependence. Those who had and had not received treatment for alcohol problems were compared in terms of past-year status and its correlates, to see if the experience of treatment samples would be reflective of the course of alcoholism in the general population. In the past year, 27.8% of the total sample met the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence, 22.3% were abstinent, and 49.9% were drinkers who did not satisfy the criteria for either abuse or dependence. Persons who had been treated for alcohol problems were about twice as likely to be abstainers as those who had not been treated (38.8% vs. 16.4%), but only about half as likely to fall into the past-year category of drinking without abuse or dependence (28.0% vs. 57.8%). These differentials were of constant magnitude, regardless of the interval since the onset of dependence. For the sample as a whole, persons who had received treatment were slightly more likely than their untreated counterparts to have had alcohol abuse or dependence in the past year (33.2% vs. 25.8%), and this differential increased with the interval since the onset of dependence. The odds of both past-year abstinence and drinking without abuse or dependence were decreased by male gender, Black race, rapidity of the onset of dependence and ethanol intake per drinking day, and were increased by ever having been married and by later ages at onset of dependence. The odds of drinking without abuse or dependence relative to abstinence were increased by college attendance and reduced by the number of dependence symptoms, and having been a daily drinker was associated with increased odds of past-year abstinence. Treatment history modified the associations between past-year status and race, marital and educational status, number of past alcohol problems, and rapidity of onset of dependence and age at onset. These results suggest that treatment studies may not be generalizable to alcoholics who do not seek treatment.

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