Newswise — Alcohol-related problems often begin in the late teens to early twenties, then decrease as drinkers grow older. However, recent reports indicate greater-than-expected problematic drinking by older populations. There are limited ways to predict which older individuals may develop alcohol-related problems, including those with earlier-onset alcohol use disorders (AUDs). This analysis evaluated predictors of alcohol outcomes among individuals who earlier reported AUDs while participating in the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA).

Researchers interviewed 663 participants (371 males, 292 females) from the original COGA study that began in 1990. At baseline, all participants – revisited 13-26 years later – had reported an AUD at about age 40. For this analysis, at follow up they were asked about any alcohol problems in the preceding five years and then placed into one of four outcome categories: Low-Risk Drinking, High-Risk Drinking, Problematic Drinking, and Abstinent.

The researchers found that many of these participants with an AUD had good outcomes two decades later. However, they were unlikely to maintain drinking levels that were within national guidelines for Low-Risk Drinking during the five years preceding the follow-up assessment.  The authors noted that this analysis was the first step in a more intensive study of a broader group of COGA participants that will include those without AUDs and comparison subjects.

Journal Link: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research