Three-year changes in adult risk drinking behavior in relation to the course of alcohol-use disorders

J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2008 Nov;69(6):866-77. doi: 10.15288/jsad.2008.69.866.


Objective: This study examines the associations between the course of alcohol-use disorder (AUD) and changes in average daily volume of ethanol intake, frequency of risk drinking, and maximum quantity of drinks consumed per day over a 3-year follow-up interval in a sample of U.S. adults.

Method: Data were taken from a longitudinal study of a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults, who were 18 years of age and older (mean age = 46.4) when initially interviewed in 2001-2002 and successfully reinterviewed approximately 3 years later (n = 22,245 baseline drinkers). The time reference period for the drinking measures was the 12 months preceding the interview. Changes in consumption reflect differences between Wave 1 and Wave 2 measures for individuals with nonmissing values at both Waves (n = 22,003 for volume of intake, 22,132 for frequency of risk drinking and 21,942 for maximum quantity of drinks).

Results: There were positive changes in all consumption measures associated with developing an AUD and negative changes associated with remission of an AUD, even among individuals who continued to drink. Increases and decreases associated with onset and offset of dependence exceeded those associated with onset/ offset of abuse only, and the decreases associated with full remission from dependence exceeded those associated with partial remission. There were few changes in consumption among individuals whose AUD status did not change. Interactions of AUD transitions with other factors indicate that development of an AUD is associated with a greater increase in consumption among men, possibly reflecting their greater total body water and lower blood alcohol concentration in response to a given dose of ethanol, and among individuals with high baseline levels of consumption.

Conclusions: Changes in consumption associated with onset and offset of AUD are substantial enough to have important implications for the risk of associated physical and psychological harm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation
  • Body Water / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Ethanol / pharmacokinetics
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Ethanol