A recent study presented at the 29th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism, June 23–28, 2006 and scheduled for release in Drug and Alcohol Dependence presents the results of a study investigating patterns of alcoholism in a national study. Based on 1,484 respondents to the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a five-cluster model of alcohol abuse was identified. Factors distinguishing the alcoholic subtypes include age, family history, age of initial alcohol abuse, and comorbidity of other psychiatric and substance disorders:
- Young Adult cluster: 31.5 percent of sample alcoholics. Young adult drinkers, with relatively low rates of co-occurring substance abuse and other mental disorders, minimal family alcoholism, who rarely seek help for their drinking.
- Young Antisocial subtype: 21 percent of sample alcoholics. Tend to be in their mid-twenties, had early onset of regular drinking, and alcohol problems. More than half come from families with alcoholism, and about half have a psychiatric diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder. Many have major depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety problems. A pattern of substance comorbidity is noted including tobacco, marijuana, and narcotic abuse. More than one-third of these alcoholics seek help for their drinking.
- Functional subtype: 19.5 percent of sample alcoholics. Typically middle-aged, well-educated, with stable jobs and families and multi generational family history of alcoholism
- Intermediate Familial subtype: 19 percent of sample alcoholics. Middle-aged, with about 50 percent from families with multi generational alcoholism. Almost half have had clinical depression, and 20 percent have had bipolar disorder. Nearly one in five in this category had problems with other substance use. Only 25 percent ever sought treatment for their problem drinking.
- Chronic Severe subtype: 9 percent of sample alcoholics. Comprised mostly of middle-aged individuals who had early onset of drinking and alcohol problems, with high rates of Antisocial Personality Disorder and criminality. Almost 80 percent come from families with multi generational alcoholism. They have the highest rates of other psychiatric disorders including depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders as well as high rates of drug abuse. Two-thirds of these alcoholics seek help for their drinking problems, making them the most prevalent type of alcoholic in treatment.