Defining Alcohol Use Disorder
- 1 Defining Alcohol Use Disorder
- 2 Alcohol Abuse Information & Diagnosis
- 3 Assessment with “Have You” Questions
- 4 Why Alcohol is Addictive?
When learning about alcohol abuse information, many various terms are used to explain the nature and cycle. Many of these terms are defined by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, CDC, SAMHSA, or National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Below are some of the definitions of these terms as outlined by the NIAAA:
- Binge Drinking: A pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men—in about 2 hours.
- Heavy Alcohol Use: More than 4 drinks on any day for men or more than 3 drinks for women.
- Alcohol Use Disorder: Anyone meeting any two of the 11 criteria [outlined in the DSM-V] during the same 12-month period receives a diagnosis of AUD. The severity of AUD—mild, moderate, or severe—is based on the number of criteria met.
- Standard Drink: One standard drink (or one alcoholic drink equivalent) contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol.
Alcohol Abuse Information & Diagnosis
To have diagnosis with AUD, individuals must meet specific criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Under DSM–5, the current version of the DSM, anyone meeting any two of the 11 criteria during the same 12-month period receives a diagnosis of AUD. The severity of AUD—mild, moderate, or severe—is based on the number of criteria met. 
Assessment with “Have You” Questions
- Had times when you ended up drinking more or longer than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
- Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
- Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, to drink?
- More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Continued to drink even though it made you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?
If you have any of these indications, your drinking may already be a cause for concern. The more symptoms you have, the more urgent the need for change. A health professional can conduct a formal evaluation of your symptoms to see if AUD is present.
Why Alcohol is Addictive?
Alcohol is a chemical substance that incites dopamine and endorphins, which relate to producing feelings of pleasure, pain relief, and satisfaction. For one, the mere fact that alcohol has these effects creates a sense of reward. Additionally, heavy drinking can cause physical changes in the brain and lead to dependency and cravings. In short, alcohol is addictive on a physiological and psychological level.
You can look for several signs if you question whether you or your loved one is dependent on or addicted to alcohol. These signs include:
- Increased alcohol tolerance and increase in the repetition and amounts of drinking
- Development of risky behavior such as unsafe sex or getting into legal problems
- You are in denial about the amount of alcohol you consume and feeling the need to hide your drinking habits from loved ones.
- Failing to reveal the actual extent of your alcohol consumption
- Spending most of your time looking for alcohol, consuming alcohol, and recovering from alcohol hangovers
Alcohol Abuse Information: High Functioning Alcoholic
A high functioning alcoholic is someone who drinks heavily always and may meet some of the criteria for an AUD; such as frequently drinking to excess or trying to stop drinking without success but avoiding many of the social effects. This individual seemingly consumes very often, in high amounts, and may have a high tolerance. However, they can keep a steady job, relationships, adequate income and avoid other social consequences an alcoholic may face. They may even seem physically healthy to the naked eye. However, often, a high-functioning alcoholic will unavoidably face some consequences. Consequences may be that they end up getting pulled over and receive a DUI, getting diagnosed with a significant health issue, or facing another consequence.
Alcohol Abuse Information: Social Drinker
Social Drinking is drinking alcohol at a crowd of people where alcohol is present. If you have ever gone and drank at a bar, party, or celebration where there was a bar or cooler full of alcohol for the taking, that was social drinking. A “Social drinker” is someone who typically only drinks alcohol when they are with other people who are also drinking. Someone with an alcohol addiction probably drinks in social situations but does not only drink in these situations or be social. An alcoholic may drink when alone or seek out social situations where drinking is, so that they can justify their drinking.
Alcohol Abuse Information and Treatment
There are two significant signs of alcohol addiction: tolerance and withdrawal. First, the body builds up a tolerance to alcohol after continued exposure; as the body adjusts to continue functioning, the tolerance rises and leads to a person needing to drink even more alcohol to achieve the craved effects. Furthermore, the body begins to expect the presence of alcohol, and the chemical make-up of the body depends on it. The second sign is Withdrawal. This will be noticeable when the inflow of alcohol stops for whatever reason, and the body is forced to revert to operate without it. Physical symptoms of the second stage include stress and anxiety, accelerated heart rate, disorientation, nausea, the need to purge, and insomnia. If a person experiences these symptoms yet continues to drink to calm the discomfort, these are clear signs that help is needed.
It is impossible to treat alcoholism, except the patient wants to get sober. They must be willing to accept treatment and begin a sober life. Alcoholism is not like other illnesses where medicine is applicable, and the patient gets remedied a few days later. It is a lifelong commitment, and the patient must choose to be sober every day. The following are some treatment options and levels of care for alcohol addiction treatment.
Alcohol Addiction Rehab
Outpatient or inpatient rehab programs are used to treat alcoholism. Outpatient programs are usually recommended for people who have just started developing alcohol problems but are not addicted yet. Rehab centers offer patients a safe and confidential environment to deal with their addiction problems. The minimum time for treatment is 30 days. People with more severe addiction might spend more time in rehab. An initial medical and psychological evaluation is necessary to determine the root causes of addiction and any co-occurring disorders. Patients immediately begin detoxing to reduce their physical alcohol dependence. After detox, therapy follows. There are group and individual treatments that allow patients to talk about their experiences and to listen to the experiences of others on the same journey. Most alcohol rehab centers have good amenities that give patients a comfortable stay and facilitate treatment.
To learn more about our holistic levels of care here at We Level Up new Jersey, you may visit this page LEVELS OF CARE.
12-Step Recovery Programs – Alcoholics Anonymous
12-Step Recovery Programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can be found all around the world. They are comprised of people in recovery supporting each other through sponsorship and group meetings. People from all religious and cultural backgrounds can join 12-Step Recovery Programs. A core principle of recovery groups is to admit that they do not have control over their drinking habits and need help. They can then look up to a power higher than themselves to help them get their healthy lives back. The idea of a higher power is different for different people depending on their religious or personal beliefs.
If you, your friend, or your family need help with alcoholism, contact us today. Our addiction specialists understand what you are going through and willing to answer any of your questions regarding alcohol abuse information.
 Alcohol Use Disorder – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism