Alcoholism is one of the most common psychiatric disorders with a prevalence of 8 to 14 percent. This heritable disease is frequently accompanied by other substance abuse disorders (particularly nicotine), anxiety and mood disorders, and antisocial personality disorder.
Although associated with considerable morbidity and mortality, alcoholism often goes unrecognized in a clinical or primary health care setting. Several brief screening instruments are available to quickly identify problem drinking, often a pre-alcoholism condition.
Problem drinking can be successfully treated with brief intervention by primary care physicians. Alcohol addiction is a lifelong disease with a relapsing, remitting course. Because of the potentially serious implications of the diagnosis, assessment for alcoholism should be detailed. Alcoholism is treated by a variety of psychosocial methods with or without newly developed pharmacotherapies that improve relapse rates.
Screening for problem drinking and alcoholism needs to become an integral part of the routine health screening questionnaire for adolescents and all adults, particularly women of child-bearing age, because of the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.