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The Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) study that involved 20,000 adults in the general public determined that 7.3% had an alcohol use disorder within the 12 months prior to the interview (Regier et al., 1993). The National Comorbidity Survey (NCS) involved a sample of over 8,000 individuals, ages 15-54 years, in the noninstitutionalized civilian population of the United States. The 1-year prevalence rates for any alcohol use disorder (i.e., either abuse or dependence) was 9.9%. Alcohol abuse was found in 2.5% of the population within the previous 12 months, and alcohol dependence in 7.2% of the sample within the past 12 months (Kessler et al., 1994). More recently, these statistics have been revised to address the issue of clinical significance (Narrow, Rae, Robins, & Regier, 2002). Clinical significance was assessed by determining whether a physician or other professional was told about the symptoms, whether medicine was taken more than once for the symptoms, or whether the symptoms interfered a lot with one's life or activities. When these aspects of clinical significance were factored in, the prevalence rates for any alcohol use disorder went from 9.9% of the sample to 6.5% in the sample in the NCS and from 7.3% of the sample to 7.2% of the sample in the ECA study.

For each psychiatric disorder assessed in these epidemiological studies, the prevalence rates of psychiatric disorders were higher among people diagnosed with alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse. Furthermore, those with alcohol dependence were more likely to have a psychiatric disorder than those diagnosed with alcohol abuse.

In the NCS study, the median age for onset of a comorbid psychiatric disorder preceded the median age of onset for all addictive disorders by about 10 years. The majority of individuals who had both a psychiatric disorder and an addictive disorder reported that they had experienced the symptoms of the psychiatric disorder before the addictive disorder started. One exception to this order of onset was that nearly 72% of alcohol-abusing males reported that their alcohol abuse preceded the onset of a mood disorder (Petrakis, Gonzales, Rosenheck, & Krystal, 2002).

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