Based on a systematic literature search and an expert survey, publications after 1990 on prevalence of alcohol use disorders (AUD) in EU countries and Norway were reviewed. The search was restricted to studies using the DSM-IIIR or DSM-IV, or ICD-10, plus validated instruments to assess AUD. Using only representative general population surveys, the weighted median estimates for 12-month prevalence rates for dependence alone are 6.1% for males (arithmetic mean 5.0%; interquartile range 0.4% to 7.5%) and 1.1% for females (arithmetic mean 1.4%; interquartile range 0.1% to 2.1%). Results thus showed, that AUD constitute a high burden of disease in Europe, but there was high variability of prevalence. Men have higher prevalence rates of AUD than women. No clear pictures emerged with respect to age and AUD prevalence, or with respect to urban vs. rural and AUD prevalence. The discussion highlights potential explanations for the high variability of prevalence between countries, and the fact, that AUD constitute only a small part of all alcohol-related harm.