The Clinical Course of Alcoholism in 243 Mission Indians

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This study was conducted to describe the order of appearance and the progression of alcohol-related life events in Mission Indian men and women with a lifetime diagnosis of alcohol dependence.


A total of 407 participants completed a structured interview that gathered information on alcohol diagnoses, remissions, abstinences, and treatments as well as alcohol-related life events.


A total of 70% of the men and 50% of the women sampled met lifetime diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence. The age at onset of alcohol dependence was younger (20 years) and the course proceeded more rapidly (6 years) than what has been described in other large studies of alcoholics. A high degree of similarity in the type and progression of alcohol-related life events was found between Mission Indian men and women and alcoholics from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA). However, Mission Indians in this study were significantly more likely than alcoholics in the COGA to experience binge drinking, physical fighting, driving while intoxicated, and alcohol-related health problems and were less likely to consider themselves excessive drinkers, drinking where and when they had not intended to, and to experience guilt concerning their drinking. Rates of abstention after an alcohol dependence diagnosis (61%) and remission from alcohol dependence symptoms (77%) were also high in Mission Indians.


Understanding the course of Mission Indian alcoholism can help identify unique alcohol-related phenotypes as well as guide the development of treatment and prevention programs in this underserved population.

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