Alcohol Use and Alcohol Use Disorders

Kenneth J. Sher, Andrew K. Littlefield and Julia A. Martinez

in The Oxford Handbook of Clinical Psychology

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780195366884
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Alcohol Use and Alcohol Use Disorders


Alcohol use disorders (AUDs), alcohol abuse, and alcohol dependence, are among the most prevalent mental disorders in the United States and elsewhere. Considerable controversy exists concerning the optimal way of classifying these disorders and the boundaries between normal and abnormal drinking. Although AUDs can occur over much of the life span, from an epidemiological perspective, it is largely a disorder of adolescence and young adulthood. Many who experience AUDs are “mature out” of them as they age and acquire adult roles and, perhaps, as a function of normal personality. However, a significant minority of individuals fail to mature out, and some individuals develop AUDs later in adulthood. A number of etiological pathways are associated with developing an AUD; foremost among them, a pathway shared with other externalizing disorders such as conduct disorder, adult antisociality, and other substance dependence. However, pathways associated with internalizing disorders and with individual differences in alcohol effects also exist. All of these pathways likely involve major genetic and environmental determinants. Given the etiological pathways that have been documented, it is not surprising that AUDs are often comorbid with other mental disorders. A number of effective approaches to the prevention and treatment of AUDs have been developed. Additionally, basic research is setting the stage for further advances in both behavior and drug treatments of AUDs.

Keywords: Alcohol abuse; alcohol use disorders; assessment; comorbidity; epidemiology; etiology; personality; substance use disorders; treatment

Article.  32421 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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