What is alcohol use disorder? (2023)

What is alcohol use disorder?

According to the National Institutes of Health, alcohol use disorder (AUD) is defined as a "chronic, relapsing brain disorder" that causes a person to drink heavily despite adverse consequences to daily life and general health.

AlcoholUse disorder replaces the previously defined terms "alcohol abuse" and "alcohol dependence," respectively.


It is very common for people to deny having abused alcohol. Also, you may not recognize the signs of an alcohol use disorder in yourself or in others.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), published in 2013, lists 11 symptoms that suggest an alcohol use disorder. The more symptoms you have, the more urgently you need help.

  • drink frequentlygreater amountor take longer than expected.
  • Having persistent desires or unsuccessful efforts.reduce or controlAlcohol consumption.
  • A significant amount of time is spent on activities necessary to obtain alcohol, drink alcohol, or recover from the effects of alcohol.
  • desire, or have a strong urge or urge to drink alcohol.
  • Frequent alcohol abuse prevents important obligations at work, school, or family.
  • Continuing to drink despite effects of alcohol that cause or exacerbate persistent or recurring social or interpersonal problems.
  • Absence or reduction in important social, professional, or recreational activities due to alcohol use.
  • Repeated consumption of alcohol in a dangerous situation for the body.
  • Continuing to consume alcohol despite knowing that you have persistent or recurring physical or psychological problems that may be caused or exacerbated by alcohol.
  • tolerant, defined as the need for a significantly greater amount of alcohol to achieve an intoxicating or desired effect, or a significantly reduced effect from continued use of the same amount of alcohol.
  • eliminate, presenting as a characteristic withdrawal syndrome due to alcohol or the use of alcohol (or closely related substances, such as benzodiazepines) to alleviate or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

What is alcoholism?


In 2018, approximately 15 million people in the United States were diagnosed with AUD, including 19.2 million men, 5.3 million women, and 401,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has an alcohol use disorder, your doctor can perform a formal evaluation of your symptoms.

To be diagnosed with AUD, a person must present two of the 11 AUD criteria described by the DSM-5 within the same 12-month period. Below is a brief description of the above criteria:

  • drinking more than expected
  • trying to give up unsuccessfully
  • Increased alcohol-seeking behavior.
  • Absence from work or school due to alcohol use.
  • interfere with important activities
  • craving for alcohol
  • drinking despite social or personal problems
  • Continued use despite health problems.
  • drink in dangerous situations
  • increase tolerance
  • Withdraw while trying to leave

What does a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder mean?

Causes and risk factors

Alcohol use disorder can be the result of a combination of genetic, environmental, psychological, and social factors, many of which are still under investigation. Some of the more common risk factors include:

  • excessive and chronic consumption of alcohol: Studies have found that drinking too much alcohol changes the parts of the brain responsible for pleasure, judgment, and self-control, leading to cravings for alcohol.
  • Family history: Children of parents with an alcohol use disorder are two to six times more likely to develop AUD than the general public. This increased risk may be due to shared genetics among family members, as well as environmental and lifestyle influences.
  • trauma history: Childhood trauma, including emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional neglect, and physical neglect, is associated with increased risk of AUD in later life.
  • Mental illness: Studies have found that people with mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder have higher rates of alcohol or other substance abuse. In fact, studies show that more than a third of people with schizophrenia meet the diagnostic criteria for AUD.
  • Social and cultural impact: Regular alcohol use by parents, peers, partners, and other role models can increase a person's risk of developing AUD, especially if a person drank excessively at a young age.

Another important factor that affects the risk of alcohol in the body is nutrition. Alcohol and nutrition can interact in a number of ways: excessive alcohol consumption interferes with nutrition, and alcohol/nutrient interactions affect gene expression.


Alcohol use disorder is divided into three categories: mild, moderate, and severe.

  • Luz: If you have 2 or 3 of the 11 symptoms on the list, you may be diagnosed with a mild illness.
  • ease: If you have four or five symptoms, you may have a moderate alcohol use disorder.
  • strengths: If you have six or more symptoms, you have a severe alcohol use disorder.

deal with

The good news is that most people with AUD can benefit from treatment, which usually includes a combination of behavioral therapy, medication, and support. The bad news is that less than 10% receive treatment., often due to fear of stigma or shame, denial or lack of awareness of the problem, doubts about treatment, and lack of access to affordable treatment.

If left untreated, alcohol use disorder can affect health, relationships, career, finances, and life. They can even be deadly, so it's important to seek help as soon as possible.

A good first step is to talk with your primary care doctor, who can assess your general health, assess the severity of your drinking, help you develop a treatment plan, refer you to an addiction specialist or treatment plan, and determine if you need any medication. . Alcohol.

Detox and withdrawal

Depending on the severity of your AUD, you may need to undergo medical detoxification to help treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms (ranging from mild to severe).

Detoxification can be done in person or on an outpatient basis and includes intravenous (IV) fluids to prevent dehydration and medications to minimize symptoms and treat seizures or other complications of alcohol withdrawal.

Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

behavior therapy

An important part of Australian recovery is working with a trained professional to better understand your relationship with alcohol and learn to cope with everyday life without drinking. Behavior therapy can also help with any problem.co-occurring mental illnessContribute to AUD.

  • Cognitive behavior therapy: Designed to teach you how to recognize and avoid situations in which you are more likely to drink and how to deal with other problems and behaviors that can lead to alcohol abuse.
  • motivational enhancement therapy: Designed to help you build confidence and motivation to stop drinking.
  • family therapy: Designed to help families understand their own needs and prevent the intergenerational transmission of substance abuse.
  • short speech: Designed to get people to reduce their alcohol consumption or change harmful drinking patterns.


There are currently three FDA-approved medications for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. While not everyone responds to the drug, many people find that the drug helps reduce appetite and maintain abstinence, especially when combined with therapy and behavioral support.

  • Natrexol (Revia, Depade, Vivitrol): reducecraving for alcohol
  • Acamprosato (Campral): Reduces acute post-withdrawal symptoms in the early stages of alcohol withdrawal.
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse): Causes unpleasant symptoms such as flushing, nausea, vomiting and headache when drinking alcohol.

support group

Online and community recovery groups can also help during addiction treatment and alcohol withdrawal. support groups likealcoholics anonymousosmart recovery, can help you feel less isolated and provide you with opportunities to learn and connect with others with similar issues and shared experiences.

What are the 12 steps to recovery?


In addition to receiving proper AUD treatment, there are things you can do on your own to make it easier to adjust and maintain your recovery.

Get tips from the Verywell Mind podcast

This episode is hosted by LCSW's Amy Morin.The Vivell Mind PodcastAddiction expert John Umhau, MD, shares strategies for coping with alcohol addiction and other addictions.

follow now:Pódcasts de Apple/Spotify/Podcasts by Google

Know your triggers

Knowing what triggers a relapse and planning for these triggers is important to staying awake during and after AUD treatment.

Some common triggers include:

  • pressure
  • emotional pain
  • Environmental factors that lead to cravings.
  • people who still use drugs or alcohol
  • couple problems
  • Professional or financial issues

5 relapse triggers and how to avoid them

practice self care

An important part of recovery is building resilience to life's stressors without excessive drinking or practicing.Take care of yourself(Focusing on your physical, social, mental and spiritual health) can help. Taking steps to care for your body and mind will allow you to live your waking life better.

seek support

Social support from friends and family, as well as online or in-person support groups, can help prevent isolation and shame and give you a sense of security and hope for a sober future. Family members and loved ones can also benefit from this type of support, and may want to consider the following groups:Al Anon y Aladdin

Support for mental health problems and addictions during COVID-19

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please contactSubstance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National HelplineNo1-800-662-4357Information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, check out ourNational Helpline Database

7 fuentes

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed research, to support the facts of our articles. read ourediting processLearn more about how we verify data and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.alcohol use disorder

  2. US National Library of Medicinealcohol use disorder

  3. Schwandt ML, Heilig M, Homer DW, George DT, Ramchandani VA.Exposure to childhood trauma and severity of alcohol dependence in adulthood: mediating roles of emotional abuse and severity of neuroticismAlcohol Clinic Experimental Research。 2013;37(6):984-92。 doi:10.1111/acer.12053

  4. Yang P, Tao R, He C, Liu S, Wang Y, Zhang X.Risk factors for alcohol use disorder, by examining its comorbidities. neuroscience frontal lobe。 2018;12:303。 doi:10.3389/fnins.2018.003

  5. Barve S, Chen SY, Kirpich I, Watson WH, McClain C. Development, prevention, and treatment of alcohol-induced organ damage: the role of nutrition.alcohol residual。 2017;38(2):289-302。

  6. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Abuse.Treatment for alcohol problems: find and get help

  7. Probst C, Manti J, Martinez A, Rem J.Alcohol use disorder severity and reported reasons for not seeking treatment: a cross-sectional study of European primary care practicePast Substance Abuse Treatment Policy。 2015;10:32。 doi:10.1186/s13011-015-0028-z

Supplementary reading

Buddy T is an author and founding member of the Al-Anon Outreach Online Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. As a member of a support group that publicly emphasizes the importance of anonymity, his photo or real name will not be used on this site.

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