Alcohol use disorders in the United States exact a tremendous human toll. For example, 18 million Americans (more than 7%) suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence, one in four children younger than 18 years is exposed to family alcohol problems, and an estimated 100,000 deaths annually are associated with alcohol-related causes. In addition to the individual and family toll of alcohol use disorders, there is a significant economic cost to our nation—an estimated $185 billion annually, a large portion of which can be attributed to health care costs from medical problems directly or indirectly ascribed to alcohol use. In fact, estimates of the number of hospital admissions in the United States that are alcohol related range from 20% to 40%. Not only are alcohol use disorders a major burden on American society, but they are equally so for other developed nations: alcohol use disorders are ranked second only to unipolar depressive disorders in World Health Organization statistics on disease burden in developed countries.
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Published online: August 19, 2004
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