DUIs Clearly Correlate to Long-Term Issues

By McCarton Ackerman 06/22/12

New research shows just how good an indicator drunk driving is of possible lifelong risky drinking.

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This might be a good time to intervene. Photo viaa

It may sound self-evident that drunk drivers have developed risky drinking habits. But a new study shows that most people convicted of a DUI or a DWI have developed lifetime patterns of unsafe drinking, withup to a third of them meeting the definitions for alcohol or drug dependence. Researchers interviewed 700 adults who'd received drunk driving convictions about 15 years earlier: half of them had either been drinking in a risky manner for many years or fell back into that habit after trying to quit. The study defined "risky" drinking as more than seven drinks per week or four or more on any given day for women, or more than 14 drinks per week or five or more drinks in one day for men. "A DWI conviction identifies people at risk," asserts study leader Dr. Sandra C. Lapham, of the Behavioral Health Research Center of the Southwest in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "It's a red flag and it's an opportunity to intervene." About 13% of the participants said they had varied drinking patterns throughout their lives, while 14% percent said they were able to cut back to more moderate levels of drinking and stay that way. Around 21% had successfully got sober.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.