Natural course of alcohol use disorders from adolescence to young adulthood

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2001 Jan;40(1):83-90. doi: 10.1097/00004583-200101000-00020.


Objectives: To examine the course of alcohol use disorder (AUD) and determine the extent to which AUD in adolescence is a risk factor for AUD and other psychopathology in young adulthood.

Method: Nine hundred forty participants from a large community sample in western Oregon were interviewed twice during adolescence (14-18 years of age the first assessment; between 1987 and 1991) and once at age 24 (1993-1999). Between 1995 and 1998, parents were assessed for lifetime AUD. Participants were classified into nonproblematic use (NON), problem drinker (PROB) (symptoms of AUD but no diagnosis), and AUD groups.

Results: Adolescent AUD significantly predicted AUD, substance use disorder, depression, and elevated levels of antisocial and borderline personality disorder symptoms by age 24. Compared with the NON group, adolescents in the PROB group were at increased risk for AUD, substance use disorder, depression, and antisocial personality disorder symptoms. However, the PROB group had lower rates of future AUD and antisocial personality disorder symptoms than the adolescent AUD group. Gender interactions were nonsignificant. Daily smoking and conduct/oppositional defiant disorders predicted future AUD, when adolescent AUD and other disorders were controlled. Paternal, but not maternal, AUD was associated with greater risk of future AUD.

Conclusions: For the majority of adolescents, AUD are not benign conditions that resolve over time. Assessment, treatment, and prevention recommendations are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors