Alcohol use disorders are common in developed countries, where alcohol is cheap, readily available, and heavily promoted. Common, mild disorders often remit in young adulthood, but more severe disorders can become chronic and need long-term medical and psychological management. Doctors are uniquely placed to opportunistically assess and manage alcohol use disorders, but in practice diagnosis and treatment are often delayed. Brief behavioural intervention is effective in primary care for hazardous drinkers and individuals with mild disorders. Brief interventions could also encourage early entry to treatment for people with more-severe illness who are underdiagnosed and undertreated. Sustained abstinence is the optimum outcome for severe disorder. The stigma that discourages treatment seeking needs to be reduced, and pragmatic approaches adopted for patients who initially reject abstinence as a goal. To engage people in one or more psychological and pharmacological treatments of equivalent effectiveness is more important than to advocate a specific treatment. A key research priority is to improve the diagnosis and treatment of most affected people who have comorbid mental and other drug use disorders.
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