Professor Doug Sellman from the National Addiction Centre at the University of Otago made use of the new diagnostic criteria for "alcohol use disorder" recently published in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) to collect his data.
He found that over 400,000 New Zealanders can be termed as 'alcoholics', amounting to almost 10 percent of the country's 4.4 million population which makes it significantly higher than the Ministry of Health's 2006 estimate of 3 to 6 percent.
"We know there are about 800,000 heavy drinkers in NZ [based on Ministry of Health figures] and it could very well be higher. A majority of heavy drinkers already are likely to meet one of them, the acquired tolerance criterion, so that means they only need one more criterion to get there. So I'm suggesting that perhaps about a half of heavy drinkers are likely to have at least one more of the diagnostic criteria such as a recurrent problem associated with heavy drinking, which accounts for the 400,000 figure", Sellman said.