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Keywords:

  • U.S. Hispanics;
  • Alcohol Problems;
  • Prevention Paradox

Background:  The “prevention paradox,” a notion that most alcohol-related problems are generated by nonheavy drinkers, has significant relevance to public health policy and prevention efforts. The extent of the paradox has driven debate over the type of balance that should be struck between alcohol policies targeting a select group of high-risk drinkers versus more global approaches that target the population at-large. This paper examines the notion that most alcohol problems among 4 Hispanic national groups in the United States are attributable to moderate drinkers.

Methods:  A general population survey employing a multistage cluster sample design, with face-to-face interviews in respondents’ homes was conducted in 5 metropolitan areas of the United States. Study participants included a total of 2,773 current drinkers 18 years and older. Alcohol consumed in the past year (bottom 90% vs. top 10%), binge drinking (binge vs. no binge), and a 4-way grouping defined by volume and binge criteria were used. Alcohol-related harms included 14 social and dependence problems.

Results:  Drinkers at the bottom 90% of the distribution are responsible for 56 to 73% of all social problems, and for 55 to 73% of all dependence-related problems reported, depending on Hispanic national group. Binge drinkers are responsible for the majority of the social problems (53 to 75%) and dependence-related problems (59 to 73%), also depending on Hispanic national group. Binge drinkers at the bottom 90% of the distribution are responsible for a larger proportion of all social and dependence-related problems reported than those at the top 10% of the volume distribution. Cuban Americans are an exception.

Conclusions:  The prevention paradox holds when using volume-based risk groupings and disappears when using a binge-drinking risk grouping. Binge drinkers who drink moderately on an average account for more harms than those who drink heavily across all groups, with exception of Cuban Americans.