Study: Most Alcoholics Don't Know They Have a Problem

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A report released by SAMHSA last week says that most people with an alcohol abuse disorder don’t know they have a drinking problem. The statistical analysis shows that Americans are in denial about alcohol abuse and that we need to do a better job of educating the public about this problem.

Statistics of Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

The report, released April 7th, concludes that 98.8% of the people in our country with an alcohol abuse disorder do not think they have a problem. It goes on to say that only 7.8% of the 6 million Americans with alcohol dependence recognize their need for help.

These numbers almost seem unbelievable. How could that many people not know they have a drinking problem? Could it be that the administration’s definition of alcohol abuse or dependence is so much more stringent than the public’s definition? SAMHSA classifies alcohol abuse as when someone puts themselves or others in physical danger, has trouble with the law, or has problems at work or in relationships because of their drinking. Alcoholism is a more serious disorder that involves alcohol addiction, an inability to stop drinking, and problems with work and relationships because of drinking. (1)

Justifying Alcohol Abuse

If what SAMHSA says is true, we must be a society flooded with alcoholics and alcohol abusers. Actually, if we look around, we might have to admit that we do see people abusing alcohol frequently. Almost any young person going out with friends is going to drink, and they see nothing wrong with it because that’s just what they do. Someone coming home from work may not think twice about having a number of drinks at night, because they worked hard all day and they deserve it. It is possible that people today just don’t see their drinking as a problem because we have become so numb to the alcohol abuse around us.

Perhaps some of the people taking the survey for this study were just not being honest, or maybe they didn’t want to admit to anyone that they have a drinking problem. Most people, however, were probably too busy justifying the reasons they abuse alcohol to see the problem it is really causing in their lives.


Some people really don’t know that they have a drinking problem, and it is very clear that not enough people are getting the treatment they need for an alcohol problem. That’s why this report is important. Education is imperative, from telling people of the dangers of binge drinking, to helping people see the need for treatment for alcoholism.

SAMHSA administrators are hoping their report helps Americans see the seriousness of alcohol abuse. The report was released on National Alcohol Screening Day, a time when people are encouraged to talk about the alcohol problems that they or a loved one face.

“SAMHSA’s spotlight provides striking evidence that millions of Americans are in serious denial regarding problem drinking,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “Individuals, friends and family members clearly need help and support in confronting and doing something about the problem. Without help alcoholism can be fatal. As a nation we need to ask ourselves why we stand by and allow so many people to self destruct before intervening. National Alcohol Screening Day provides one day to have the conversation we should be willing to have every day until screening for alcohol problems becomes the norm — just like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.” (1) 


(1) Only 1.2% of Alcohol Abusers Know They Need Help: Report

Few Alcoholics Realize They Need Help

Nearly all American adults with untreated alcohol use disorders don’t think they need treatment