Most people who hit the bottle too heavily lay off the booze long before they ever have to stand up and say, "My name is Bill W and I'm an alcoholic." Shooting down conventional wisdom that climbing up on the wagon and staying there was the only way to curb alcohol problems, new research suggests that most people with drinking problems moderate their habits without becoming teetotalers. A survey of 43,000 taken over the past decade found that 30% of Americans have had an alcohol-use disorder, but that 70% regained control without treatment.
Only 1% suffered from recurring alcoholism. "It can be a chronic, relapsing disease. But it isn't usually that," says one expert. Others agree: “For a long time there was an emphasis on alcoholism as if it were one thing,” a USC psychology professor tells the LA Times. But “people with alcohol-related problems don't all look the same. Some people only have problems for a short time. Others develop disorders that are ultimately fatal to them."