Journal Article
Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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The National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) Waves 1 and 2: review and summary of findings.

PURPOSE: The NESARC, a "third-generation" psychiatric epidemiologic survey that integrated detailed measures of alcohol and drug use and problems has been the data source for over >850 publications. A comprehensive review of NESARC findings and their implications is lacking.

METHOD: NESARC was a survey of 43,093 participants that covered alcohol, drug and psychiatric disorders, risk factors, and consequences. Wave 1 of the NESARC was conducted in 2001-2002. Three years later, Wave 2 follow-up re-interviews were conducted with 34,653 of the original participants. Scopus and Pubmed were used to search for NESARC papers, which were sorted into topic areas and summarized.

RESULT: The most common disorders were alcohol and posttraumatic stress disorders, and major depression. Females had more internalizing disorders and males had more externalizing disorders, although the preponderance of males with alcohol disorders (the "gender gap") was less pronounced than it was in previous decades. A race/ethnic "paradox" (lower risk among disadvantaged minorities than whites) remains unexplained. Younger participants had higher risk for substance and personality disorders, but not unipolar depressive or anxiety disorders. Psychiatric comorbidity was extensive and often formed latent trans-diagnostic domains. Since 1991-1992, risk for marijuana and prescription drug disorders increased, while smoking decreased, although smoking decreases were less pronounced among those with comorbidity. A nexus of comorbidity, social support, and stress predicted transitions in diagnostic status between Waves 1 and 2. Childhood maltreatment predicted psychopathology. Alcohol and drug use disorders were seldom treated; attitudinal barriers (little perceived need, perceived alcoholism stigma, pessimism about efficacy) were more important in predicting non-treatment than financial barriers.

CONCLUSIONS: Understanding comorbidity and the effects of early stressors will require research incorporating biologic components, e.g., genetic variants and brain imaging. The lack of treatment for alcohol and drug disorders, predicted by attitudinal rather than financial variables, suggests an urgent need for public and professional education to reduce the stigma associated with these disorders and increase knowledge of treatment options.

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