'Problem drinking' affects 14 percent of U.S. adults, study finds

CHICAGO (AP) — Alcohol problems affect almost 33 million adults and most have never sought treatment. That's according to a government survey indicating that rates have increased in recent years.

It's the first national estimate based on a new definition of "alcohol use disorders" in a widely used psychiatric handbook that was updated two years ago. Fourteen percent of adults are affected.

The new definition combines alcohol abuse and dependence, which had been two separate disorders. It adds craving as one symptom and eliminates alcohol-related legal problems as another. Problem drinkers have at least two of 11 symptoms, including drinking that harms performance at work, school or home and frequent hangovers.

About 30 percent of participants had been a "problem drinker" at some point in their lives, the study found. Nearly 40 percent of adults surveyed said they had engaged in binge drinking -- downing at least five drinks in a day -- at least once in the past year. Problem drinking is also found to be more common among city dwellers.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.