Predictors of symptom course in alcohol use disorder

William E. Conlin*, Michaela Hoffman, Douglas Steinley, Alvaro Vergés, Kenneth J. Sher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Symptoms often play an important role in the scientific inquiry of psychological disorders and have been theorized to play a functional role in the disorders themselves. However, little is known about the course of specific symptoms and individual differences in course. Understanding the course of specific symptoms and factors influencing symptom course can inform psychological theory and future research on course and treatment. Methods: The current study examined alcohol use disorder (AUD) criteria to explore how etiologically relevant covariates differentially affected the course of individual criteria. The study examined 34,653 participants from Wave 1 (2001–2002) and Wave 2 (2003–2004) of the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), to analyze the extent to which AUD symptom course is predicted by alcohol consumption patterns, family history of alcoholism, the presence of internalizing and externalizing disorders, and race. Results: The course of all AUD criteria was significantly influenced by these predictors, with the magnitude of the influence varying across different criteria and different aspects of the course (i.e., onset, persistence, recurrence). The strength of the relationship is partially related to the theoretical proximity of a given covariate to AUD symptomatology, with heavy drinking being the strongest and family history of AUD being the weakest. The course of all criteria was strongly associated with the prevalence of the criterion in the overall sample. Conclusions: The course of AUD criteria is heterogeneous, appearing to be influenced by conceptually proximal predictors, the prevalence of the criterion, and perhaps an underlying common factor. Diagnostic accuracy may be improved by including a criterion related to alcohol consumption. Future work should include exploring the interchangeability of criteria and alternative operationalization of them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2288-2300
Number of pages13
JournalAlcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Research Society on Alcohol.


  • alcohol use disorder
  • alcohol use disorder course
  • alcohol use disorder criteria
  • diagnosis
  • symptom course


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