Prevalence of Alcohol Dependence Among Excessive Drinkers in New Mexico


Reprint requests: Jim Roeber, MSPH, Epidemiology and Response Division, New Mexico Department of Health, 1190 St. Francis Dr. N1313, PO Box 26110, Santa Fe, NM 87502-6110; Fax: 505-827-0013; E-mail:


Background: Excessive alcohol consumption claims more than 75,000 lives in the United States each year. The prevalence of alcohol dependence among excessive drinkers is not well known.

Methods: Data from the 2002 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) in New Mexico were used to assess the prevalence of excessive drinking, including binge drinking, heavy drinking, alcohol-impaired driving, and alcohol dependence.

Results: Of 4,761 respondents, 16.5% were excessive drinkers; 14.4% binge drank and 1.8% were alcohol dependent. While the rates of alcohol dependence were higher among the youngest age group, males, those with some college education, and those of race/ethnicity other than White, non-Hispanic, only differences by age were statistically significant. The prevalence of alcohol dependence was the highest among those who reported alcohol-impaired driving in the past 30 days (15.9%), and was lower among those who reported heavy drinking (13.4%) and binge drinking (8.1%).

Conclusions: Although 16.5% of New Mexico adults had at least 1 type of excessive drinking, only 1.8% of all adults met the criteria for alcohol dependence. Furthermore, only a minority of those who reported binge drinking, heavy drinking, or alcohol-impaired driving met the criteria for alcohol dependence. This suggests that most alcohol problems in New Mexico are likely due to excessive drinking among persons who are not alcohol dependent. The adverse health and social consequences associated with excessive drinking are not limited to those who are alcohol dependent, but extend to a broader range of problem drinkers across the population.