CURRENTLY ACTIVE AND REMITTED ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE IN A NATIONWIDE ADULT GENERAL POPULATION—RESULTS FROM THE FINNISH HEALTH 2000 STUDY

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Abstract

Aims

To study the factors relating to remission from alcohol dependence in the general population.

Methods

Within a representative, cross-sectional general population sample aged 30 years or more, the characteristics of subjects remitted from alcohol dependence were examined by comparisons with actively alcohol-dependent subjects.

Results

The overall lifetime prevalence of alcohol dependence was 7.9%. Comorbid depressive and anxiety disorders were diagnosed in 22% of the actively alcohol-dependent and in 19% of the remitted subjects. There were few sociodemographic, clinical or childhood-related factors differentiating the two groups of subjects. Of comorbid mental disorders, social phobia (6% vs 1%) and dysthymia (7% vs 3%) were more common among the actively alcohol-dependent, whereas other common disorders were equally common for both active and remitted alcohol dependence. Health care or other service use for alcohol problems within the previous 12 months was more frequent among the actively dependent (16% vs 4%), and the same was true for health care use for mental health problems (17% vs 8%). Any service use in the previous year for either type of problem was more common among the actively dependent than the remitted (26% vs 13%).

Conclusions

In an unselected setting, only comorbid social phobia and dysthymia differentiated active alcohol dependence from a remitted state, suggesting either that they are obstacles to remission from an active state, explaining why some alcohol-dependent individuals are unable to recover, or that their symptoms are maintained by excessive alcohol use. The actively alcohol-dependent used both substance use services and mental health services more often than the remitted subjects, possibly due to needs generated by their alcohol problem. Comorbid psychopathology should be considered when developing treatment options for alcohol dependence.

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