Familial Factors and Substance Use Disorders



The most recent large-scale epidemiologic study of psychopathology in the United States indicates that nearly half of the population will experience a major psychiatric illness at some point over their lifetime (Kessler, et al., 1994). Moreover, alcohol abuse and dependence were the most frequently occurring of all disorders, affecting one in every 5 males and one in every 12 females. Drug use disorders, though less common, are highly prevalent and are often associated with alcoholism and other forms of psychopathology. There is also a particularly disturbing trend for substance use among adolescents, with the age of onset of substance dependence steadily decreasing. Substance use disorders (i.e., alcohol and drug use disorders) are often associated with intense suffering, physical and emotional illness, and social and occupational impairment. They have a dramatic impact on the family (particularly among children), important consequences for economic productivity, and high mortality stemming from alcohol- and drug-related accidents, homicide and suicide (e.g., Dawson & Grant, 1993; Lewinsohn, Rohde, & Seeley, 1995). In summary, substance use disorders are a major public health concern that warrants the aggressive pursuit of effective strategies for prevention.


Anxiety Disorder Twin Study Adolescent Psychiatry Familial Aggregation Genetic Epidemiology 
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