'Hazardous drinking' may be a new 'check stop' on the way to alcohol dependence

June 17, 2008

Current diagnostic guides divide alcohol-use disorders into two categories: alcohol abuse/harmful use and alcohol dependence. Some researchers and clinicians believe this is insufficient, that there should be a third, preceding diagnosis known as "hazardous drinking," defined as drinking more than guidelines recommend. A Finnish study has found that hazardous drinking is quite common.

Results will be published in the September issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at OnlineEarly.

"This is an issue that needs to be debated," said Mauri Aalto, chief physician at the National Public Health Institute and corresponding author for the study. "Current tools – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fourth Edition, and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases - 10 – do not allow for a phenomenon like hazardous drinking, when a person drinks too much and is at risk but is not alcohol dependent."

Aalto and his colleagues examined data collected on 4,477 Finns (2,341 females, 2,136 males), 30 to 64 years of age, through the nation's Health 2000 Survey. They analyzed quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption, as well as socio-demographic characteristics.

Results showed the prevalence of hazardous drinking at 5.8 percent of the population examined.

"I think 5.8 percent is a high number, because we used rather high limits for hazardous drinking," said Aalto. Men were defined as hazardous drinkers if they reported drinking 24 Finnish standard drinks or more per week during the preceding year. The corresponding limit for women was 16 standard drinks or more per week.

"A hazardous drinker may see many other people around him or her drinking as much as him or herself," said Aalto. "This, together with not yet experiencing any alcohol-related harm, may lead the individual to wrongly think that there is no need to reduce drinking. However, hazardous drinkers do not include alcohol dependents, who usually drink a lot more. Alcohol-dependent drinkers already have significant alcohol-related harms and it is more difficult for them to change their drinking habits."

Results also showed that hazardous drinking was more of a problem for males, those older than 40 years of age, those who were unemployed versus employed, and those who were cohabiting, divorced/separated or unmarried versus those who were married.

"I think it is interesting to notice that almost 80 percent of hazardous drinkers in our study were employed," said Aalto. "Yet the probability of being divorced or unemployed, which might be inferred as 'adverse social consequences' of alcohol use, increases on the continuum from moderate drinking via hazardous drinking to alcohol dependence."

Aalto said these results support viewing hazardous drinking as a genuine public-health concern. "The important point is that there is such a phenomenon like hazardous drinking and it is quite common," he added.

Source: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

Explore further: Accelerating progress to reduce alcohol-impaired driving fatalities

Related Stories

Accelerating progress to reduce alcohol-impaired driving fatalities

January 17, 2018
Despite progress in recent decades, more than 10,000 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities occur each year in the U.S. To address this persistent problem, stakeholders—from transportation systems to alcohol retailers to law ...

Biomarkers may help predict outcomes in gastric cancer patients who abuse alcohol

January 10, 2018
Alcohol consumption has been identified as a modifiable risk factor for cancers such as gastric cancer. A new report in the The American Journal of Pathology sheds light on how specific proteins interact with alcohol, and ...

7 ways to keep the heart safe when shoveling snow

January 5, 2018
A winter storm advancing up the East Coast pummeled the Northeast on Thursday, bringing bitter cold, snow and strong winds. As people dig out there and elsewhere this winter, there are some health hazards to keep in mind.

Student drug use in Ontario, Canada, at historic lows but new concerns over fentanyl emerge

December 14, 2017
By almost every measure, students in grades 7 through 12 in Ontario, Canada are drinking, smoking, and using drugs at the lowest rates since the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) began in 1977. This according ...

Traditional Amazonian drug linked to improved sense of wellbeing

November 9, 2017
A psychedelic drug traditionally used in South America improves people's general sense of wellbeing and may offer a treatment for alcoholism and depression, new research suggests.

The perils of nostalgia: Older motorcyclists most likely to die in crashes

October 26, 2017
When Ron Havens takes a road trip on his Honda Gold Wing motorcycle, he sees a lot of riders like himself - guys over 60 who rode when they were young and are back at it now that they're retired.

Recommended for you

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.