Prevalence of alcohol consumption, abuse and dependence in a country with high per capita consumption: findings from the German TACOS study
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Background: The aim of the Transitions in Alcohol Consumption and Smoking (TACOS) project is to investigate substance use and use disorders in the adult general population in a region of the under-researched north of Germany, focussing on smoking and alcohol consumption. In this study, the design and quality assurance provisions of the baseline cross-section of the longitudinal project are described. Prevalence rates of alcohol use disorders, consumption pattern, and the nature of their association are also analysed with regard to preventive strategies. Method: A random sample of 4075 participants, aged 18 to 64 and drawn from residents registration office files, was interviewed with a DSM-IV adapted version of WHO CIDI. Fieldwork resulted in a response rate of 70.2% and an unbiased database with regard to demographic characteristics. Results: Low lifetime prevalence of alcohol use disorders (4.5% abuse, 3.8% dependence) and hazardous consumption (13.2% lifetime; 6.0% 12-month) was found compared to southern regions of Germany and US American data. In contrast, we found a comparatively high percentage of moderate alcohol uses. Male subjects are more affected by lifetime alcohol use disorders (abuse OR 8.3, 95% CI 5.3–13.2; dependence OR 4.3, 95% CI 2.8–6.4). The association between alcohol use disorders and alcohol consumption pattern revealed a weaker relation for alcohol abuse compared to dependence. Conclusion: National and regional drinking habits and norms have to be considered as a significant source of variance, supporting the need for European epidemiological research on substance use in addition to US American activities, and emphasising the advantages of community-based preventive measures. An evaluation of public recommendations for safe limits of alcohol consumption and prevention targets referring to average consumption is indicated. There is also a need for a clear distinction between alcohol abuse and dependence.
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