What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

by | Nov 5, 2019 | 0 comments

What you might call it alcoholism the medical community calls alcohol use disorder, or AUD. Alcoholism is not an official medical diagnosis and most medical professionals avoid using the term. Instead, they use AUD, which describes the compulsive and often uncontrollable alcohol use and is classified as a chronic disease.

Alcohol is the world’s most socially acceptable drug. It’s a common way to spend time together: meeting up at the bar with friends, going out for drinks at the end of a work week, or beers at a family barbeque.

The majority of drinkers consume alcohol responsibly. They keep themselves to a drink or two and stop once they feel the effects but this isn’t the case for every drinker. It’s easy to forget when commercials work to sweep the dangerous effects of alcohol under the rug. Still, AUD affects plenty of people as well as those who love them.

Are you worried that someone you know drinks too much? Do you fear they might become an alcoholic? Continue reading to learn more about what alcohol use disorder is, how to spot it, and what you can do.

More About Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

The majority of people in the United States drink alcohol. 86.3 percent of people above the age of 18 have drank at least once in their life according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). That means nearly 9 out of every 10 people have drank at some point in their life.

That same survey revealed that 14.1 million people in the same age group, or 5.7 percent of that population, have an active AUD. An additional 443,000 young people between the ages of 12 and 17 also meet the AUD criteria. 

Although these numbers are small in comparison to the total number of drinkers, the impact of excessive drinking is extreme. How do you know if someone you love is in this population of people who abuse alcohol?

What Are the Symptoms of AUD?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) outlines the official criteria for AUD. It contains 11 different symptoms of alcohol use disorder that help psychiatric and other medical professionals make a diagnosis.

In order to receive an AUD diagnosis, someone must meet at least 2 of the criteria in the past year. Additionally, AUD is split into three different categories: mild, moderate, and severe. An individual’s diagnosis depends on how many symptoms of alcohol use disorder they meet. 

  • Mild: 2 to 3 symptoms
  • Moderate: 4 to 5 symptoms
  • Severe: 6 or more symptoms

The symptoms of alcohol use disorder include:

  1. Drinking more or for a longer period of time than planned.
  2. Trying to cut down or stop drinking but not being able to.
  3. Spending a lot of time either drinking or feeling sick as a result of drinking.
  4. Craving alcohol, meaning feeling a strong or overwhelming urge to drink.
  5. Having trouble meeting responsibilities at home, school, or work as a result of drinking.
  6. Experiencing trouble with family or friends as a result of drinking.
  7. Slowing down on or cutting out activities they used to enjoy as a result of drinking.
  8. Getting into dangerous situations that increase their risk of getting hurt, like driving, swimming, or having unsafe sex, while under the influence.
  9. Developing health problems or worsening existing problems because of drinking.
  10. Needing to drink more to achieve the desired effect. 
  11. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after the effects of alcohol wear off, including shakiness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, restlessness, anxiety, depression, or nausea.

People who show any of these symptoms already have concerning drinking behaviors. If your loved one meets one or more of these criteria, you might want to have a conversation with them about their drinking. This doesn’t mean there is no hope, though. There are plenty of options for people looking to treat their alcohol use disorder.

How to Treat Alcohol Use Disorder

People looking for help to get sober and recover their AUD have options today. Addiction and alcohol treatment exist to separate people from alcohol and show them how to live without drinking. There are different levels of treatment to choose from, depending on the severity of the person’s drinking.

If your loved one prefers not to attend an outside treatment facility, alcohol treatment at home is a new option. Programs like Heal at Home offer people the opportunity to receive alcohol treatment in the comfort of their home. They can avoid attending treatment with a wide range of people and instead maintain their privacy. 

At-home treatment eliminates the initial “culture shock” of returning to the real-world after an isolating experience in treatment. Instead, you can bring the rehabilitation to your loved one with the help of Heal at Home.


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