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Social contexts of remission from DSM-5 alcohol use disorder in a high-risk sample.

  • Author(s): McCutcheon, Vivia V;
  • Kramer, John R;
  • Edenberg, Howard J;
  • Nurnberger, John I;
  • Kuperman, Samuel;
  • Schuckit, Marc A;
  • Heath, Andrew C;
  • Bucholz, Kathleen K
  • et al.


Measures of social context, such as marriage and religious participation, are associated with remission from alcohol use disorders (AUDs) in population-based and treatment samples, but whether these associations hold among individuals at high familial risk for AUD is unknown. This study tests associations of measures of social context and treatment with different types of remission from DSM-5 AUD in a high-risk sample.


Subjects were 686 relatives of probands (85.7% first-degree) who participated in a high-risk family study of alcohol dependence. All subjects met criteria for AUD at baseline and were re-interviewed 5 years later. Follow-up status was categorized as persistent AUD, high-risk drinking, remitted low-risk drinking, and abstinence. Social context measures were defined as stable or changing from baseline to follow-up, and their bivariate and multivariate associations with follow-up status were tested.


At follow-up, 62.8% of subjects had persistent AUD, 6.4% were high-risk drinkers, 22.2% were remitted low-risk drinkers, and 8.6% were abstinent. Birth of first child during the interval was the only measure of social context associated with remitted low-risk drinking and was significant for women only. Abstinent remission was characterized by being stably separated or divorced for women, new marriage for both sexes, experiencing low levels of family support and high levels of friend support, and receiving treatment. High-risk drinkers were more likely than individuals with persistent AUD to have a stable number of children and to have been recently unemployed.


The social contexts accompanying different types of remission in this high-risk sample resemble those found in population-based and clinical samples. Low-risk drinkers resemble natural remitters from population-based samples who change their drinking habits with life transitions. Abstainers resemble clinical samples in marital context, support from friends, and treatment. High-risk drinkers appear to continue to experience negative consequences of heavy drinking.

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