In the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), alcohol use disorder (AUD) and other substance use disorders are defined as psychiatric disorders. Many individuals who misuse alcohol also abuse other drugs, and vice-versa. Additionally, other psychiatric disorders often co-occur with AUD. This is referred to as co-morbidity.
Over the past 30 years, several studies have shown that AUD often co-occurs with certain mood and anxiety disorders. In fact, the National Comorbidity Survey found in 1997 that alcoholics were two to three times more likely than non-alcoholics to also have an anxiety disorder. Another study, NIAAA’s National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey, found that those with a history of alcohol dependence (even former drinkers), had a more than fourfold-increased risk for a major depressive episode than those without a history of alcohol dependence.
It isn’t always clear which comes first: AUD or another mental health disorder, and how each affects the other. Researchers are continuing to study AUD and other mental health disorders, including the effects of stress and gender differences on these disorders. With a fuller understanding of all the ways alcohol and other mental health disorders affect one another, researchers may be able to better tailor treatment to individuals suffering from comorbid addiction and mental health disorders.
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