subtypes of alcoholism

June 30, 2007

New study shows five subtypes of alcoholics: young adult, young antisocial, functional, intermediate familial, chronic severe.  This seems to be getting a fair bit of media attention.

Here’s a 1983 study with six subtypes.  Here’s a 2006 review finding as many as four subtypes.  Here’s a 2004 study with four subtypes.  There’s also a type 1/type 2 distinction from 1988, and a type A/type B distinctions.  This is just from a quick google search and a non-exhaustive search on PubMed.

Ahistorical science news is pretty common – everything’s a big new finding, a new development, the first of its kind.  I’m not sure how much this has to do with science writers not having much background, how much it has to do with news not selling unless it’s new, and how much it has to do with the fact that if you don’t have to give people historical perspective it makes you able to do your job – writing stories people will want to read – much more efficiently.

I still wish that science news would come with more information on what this has to offer over similar previous findings, and more information on how those previous findings (for work with applied implications) were useful or not useful.  Is this really a shiny new finding, or just another variation?  That kind of thing.  (At least it’s not yet to the point where people are still reporting it as news months from now.)

I’m agnostic about whether this specific study in a shiny new finding or not – it may be a useful improvement on previous studies, it may not; I don’t know enough about that area of research to tell.   The point I want to make, though, is that a lot of science-related stuff hyped as news isn’t, and it often gets oversold because it’s presented without the research context.