• Ethnicity;
  • Race;
  • Alcohol Abuse and Dependence;
  • Whites;
  • Blacks;
  • Hispanics

Background:  The objective of this paper is to examine 10-year trends (1992 to 2002) in the number and type of indicators of DSM-IV abuse and dependence among whites, blacks, and Hispanics in the United States.

Methods:  Data are from the 1991 to 1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey (NLAES; = 42,862) and the 2001 to 2002 National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC; = 43,093). Both surveys used multistage cluster sample procedures to select respondents 18 years of age and older from the U.S. household population.

Results:  Increases in the prevalence of alcohol abuse between 1992 and 2002 seem associated with a rise in the prevalence of the indicator for “hazardous use.” which usually means reports of driving after drinking. The decrease in dependence was not associated with changes in a particular indicator. In addition, both in 1992 and 2002, 12.3 to 15.4% of the men and 5.2 to 7.9% of the women were diagnostic “orphans.” These respondents reported 1 or 2 indicators of alcohol dependence as present.

Conclusions:  The observed trends in number and types of indicators of DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence were probably triggered by a complex interplay between individuals’ volume and pattern of drinking and reactions from the drinkers’ social environment. The close association between hazardous use of alcohol and the prevalence of abuse deserves further discussion. A medical diagnostic category should not be so dependent on a criterion that may be influenced by social situations. It is necessary to understand more about diagnostic “orphans” to better design interventions to address their problems.