10 Things You Need To Know About Alcohol Use Disorder

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It's usually not a problem when you have a drink now and then. But when drinking becomes a problem, it may be considered an alcohol use disorder according to medical terminology. In the U.S., alcohol use disorder affects about 16 million people. That's about 6.2% of the adult population over 18 years of age. Of this, about 5.3 million are women, 9.8 million are men, and about 623,000 are between 12 to 17 years old.

What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder is a chronic brain disease that is characterized by the loss of control over drinking, compulsive drinking, and a negative emotional reaction when not drinking. To assess whether you have this disorder you must meet 2 of the criteria listed below:

You've Tried To Stop Or Decrease Drinking More Than Once

You Put Extra Time And Effort Into Drinking

You Continue To Drink Even Though You Know You Are At Risk For Health Issues

You Have Developed A Tolerance

You Have Withdrawal Symptoms

You Crave Alcohol

You Spend Less Time On Important Things

You Drink Even When It Causes Issues

You Don't Do Things You Enjoy

You Put Yourself In Danger When Drinking

Causes Of An Alcohol Use Disorder

Environmental, social, psychological, and genetic factors can affect how drinking alcohol affects your behavior and your body. There are theories that suggest that certain people have a stronger and different impact from it that can lead to an alcohol use disorder. Drinking large amounts of alcohol over time may change the normal functioning of the brain associated with the ability to control behavior, judgement, and experience pleasure. This may lead to cravings in an attempt to reduce negative feelings or restore good ones.

How Is An Alcohol Use Disorder Diagnosed?

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Consulting with a healthcare provider is the best way to diagnose an alcohol use disorder. They will inquire about your behavior over the past year. You will be diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe based on how many of the symptoms you exhibit.

How Is An Alcohol Use Disorder Treated?

You may be admitted to a hospital if you need assistance with withdrawal; this is the safest approach. You may also need one or more of the following to help you:

  • Admission to an inpatient facility if you are diagnosed with a severe dependence
  • Therapy with a psychologist or a psychiatrist
  • Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Medication to decrease alcohol cravings

What Constitutes One Drink?

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According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, one drink is 1.5 ounces of 80-proof hard alcohol (40% alcohol), 5 ounces of unfortified wine (12% alcohol), 8 to 9 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol), or 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol).

What Are The Risks?

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Problematic drinking puts you at risk for damage to your liver, lungs, kidneys, heart, and brain. You have a greater risk of a stroke if you consume 5 drinks or more daily. Pregnant women risk serious health issues for themselves and their unborn child.

Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol Intoxication

The Difference Between AUD And Alcoholism

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What Is Alcoholism?

A person with severe dependence on alcohol is said to have alcoholism. Many use the term for those who drink too much. It is more than engaging in a heavy drinking weekend. People who suffer from alcoholism have many of the symptoms of AUD. If you drink more than you should, or despite the effects it has on you, then you may be an alcoholic. The term is often used by the Alcoholics Anonymous program; they believe you are the only one who can determine this.

What Is the Difference?

Alcohol use disorder is a medical term used by medical professionals who have performed an evaluation of a person and have diagnosed them. The term alcoholic is something used by laypersons and is an everyday term with no basis in medical evaluation.

How Can You Tell If You Have AUD Or Alcoholism?

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It is best to go to a medical professional if you suspect you have a drinking problem. Take a look at the list of symptoms to see if you have any of them and how many. It is best to seek assistance if you have a drinking problem, there are many programs that can help you.

Over 15,000 treatment centers exist in just the U.S. with options for those who are seeking help. From intensive outpatient treatment to detox programs, you can find something that works well for you. Having a group of peers in the same situation as you are can be very helpful. There is no reason you have to figure the situation out alone.

Should You Call A Doctor?

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If you find that your drinking is causing problems for you and those around you, consult with your doctor for advice. You can also speak to a mental health professional or go to support group meetings. Denial is a common trait among people who drink a lot; you may have convinced yourself you don't have a problem. Heed the advice of those around you who care about your well-being when they ask you to seek help. Speaking with someone who has successfully stopped drinking may also help you.

Getting Help For Your Loved Ones

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Sometimes those who need help will not seek it on their own, usually because they don't acknowledge that there is a problem. An intervention from those who care may be of help to some to get them to see that they have a problem and they need help. If you know someone you are concerned about, get assistance from an experienced alcohol treatment professional who can advise you how to approach them.


Alcohol use disorder is an issue caused by problematic drinking. It involves alcohol dependency and abuse, and is characterized by a pattern of drinking that involves having withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop, needing to drink more to get the desired effect, continuing to drink even if it is causing problems in your life, becoming preoccupied with drinking, and having problems controlling how much you consume.

Problematic drinking includes the use of alcohol that puts the safety of others, or yourself and your health at risk. It may include binge drinking, which in women is consuming at least 4 drinks in a two-hour period and for men 5 drinks or more in two hours. This behavior can cause significant safety and health problems.

If drinking is causing problems in your daily life or if you are experiencing significant distress, you most likely have an alcohol use disorder. It can be mild to severe, but even a mild disorder can increase and cause serious problems. Early treatment will help you deal with this issue.

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