Study puts problem drinkers into 5 categories

For those who choose to drink alcohol, the healthiest level of consumption is typically defined as up to a drink per day for women, or up to two per day for men.

“Low-risk” drinking, meanwhile, is defined for women as no more than three drinks in a single day and no more than seven per week; for men, it’s four in a day and 14 per week. People who exceed these benchmarks are considered at risk for alcohol use disorder, as well as health conditions such as cancer and cognitive decline.

As clear as these definitions are on paper, however, identifying problem drinking can be more challenging in real life. Tolerance levels, behavior and personal definitions of acceptability can be highly variable, sometimes making it difficult to suss out who has troublesome drinking habits.

But a new study, published this week in Alcohol & Alcoholism, identified five distinct subgroups of problem drinkers, potentially making it easier to zero in on unhealthy behavior and tailor treatments.

“Alcohol use disorder is not a one-size-fits all diagnosis,” says study co-author Ashley Linden-Carmichael, an assistant research professor of biobehavioral health at the Pennsylvania State University.

“This (approach) allows us to be more finetuned in detection and early screening and early prevention.”


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