Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
Problem drinking affected approximately 17 million American adults over the age of eighteen in 2012, accounting for more than 7% of the adult population. Problem drinking is more likely to affect men than women, with 11.2 million men and 5.7 million women respectively affected. Those under the age of eighteen can also receive a diagnosis. In 2012, there were approximately 855,000 young adults between the ages of twelve and seventeen that had been diagnosed with alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Alcohol use disorder is a new term outlined in the fifth and most current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM is a resource used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental disorders. AUD encompasses some of the previous diagnostic criteria for conditions including alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. Alcoholism is a less specific term that is not used by health professionals to make diagnoses; still, it may refer to a similar collection of symptoms. Binge drinking is another related problem that may have slightly different signs and symptoms. For an individual to be diagnosed with AUD, he or she must meet a minimum of two of the eleven criteria outlined below over a consecutive 12-month period. Diagnoses may range from mild to moderate to severe according to how many of these criteria are met by the individual.
Signs and Symptoms
In general, AUD occurs when an individual continues to drink in spite of severe negative consequences that may be physical, social, or emotional. An individual suffering from AUD faces serious repercussions for their drinking habits, such as an ultimatum from his or her family or a layoff at work due to poor performance. In spite of these negative outcomes, he or she still chooses to drink. The following set of questions can be used to determine whether you or a loved one may have AUD. In the past twelve months, have you:
- Desired to cut down on how much you drink or stop drinking altogether? Or tried to quit and failed?
- Frequently ended up drinking more or drinking longer than you intended to?
- Put yourself or others in danger through your actions during or after drinking? (For instance, by using machinery, having unsafe sex, driving, swimming, or passing out in a dangerous area.)
- Spent an excessive amount of time drinking and/or getting over a hangover?
- Felt a craving for alcohol?
- Found that drinking or a hangover interfered with your responsibilities at home, with your family, or at school or work?
- Continued drinking in spite of your drinking causing problems among your close family and friends?
- Stopped activities that you once found interesting or fulfilling in favor of drinking?
- Drank in spite of negative mental health outcomes, including anxiety, blacking out, or depression?
- Had to drink more in order to feel the same effect that drinking once had?
- Experienced withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, restlessness, nausea, paranoia, shakiness, anxiety, sweating, depression, or difficulty falling or staying asleep?
If you suffer from any of the symptoms described above, you may have a problem. The more symptoms that you identify with, the more likely that your problem is severe. You should get into contact with your doctor in order to receive a proper medical diagnosis. Treatment can benefit even those who suffer from severe AUD, greatly improving their chances of overcoming symptoms.