Alcohol has become a part of American culture. Music and films regularly depict crazy parties and dance clubs, where people drink like fish. Brands like Budweiser and Jack Daniel’s cover billboards and TV screens, showing the exaggerated glories of using their products. With mountains of alcohol advertisements surrounding us, it is easy to see why many fall into the trap of over-drinking.
The advertisements don’t show the people struggling to fight their addiction. They don’t show the mother who can’t take care of her children because of excessive alcohol, or the husband who can’t go to work without having a drink. These people are out there, and they are more common than people think.
Alcohol use disorder, or AUD, is a term used to define people with a severe drinking problem. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 17 million adults in the United States had symptoms of an alcohol use disorder in 2012.
An alcohol use disorder isn’t just about drinking a lot at a time. The symptoms for the disorder have more to do with the regularity of drinking, and the adverse effects of drinking on one’s life. When someone stops being able to get things done because of alcohol, they may have AUD.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) gives the symptoms and criteria needed for someone to be diagnosed with a mental disorder. The current version of DSM-V, released in 2013, released new criteria for someone to be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder. The criteria are formatted as yes or no questions. A “yes” answer indicates the presence of alcohol use disorder.
According to the NIAAA, the new criteria is:
- 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, in order 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 was making 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 any two of the symptoms have applied to a person over the past 12 months, they could be diagnosed with AUD.
While many people can fit the criteria for an alcohol use disorder, some do not recognize that they have a problem. According to NIAA, only 8%of adults who have AUD receive treatment for it. Some may feel ashamed of their problem, or feel as though their problem isn’t severe enough to warrant professional treatment.
Regardless of the severity of the disorder, treatment such as therapy and rehabilitation can help alcohol users get on track. If you, or a loved one, seems to fit the criteria for having an alcohol use disorder, do not hesitate to reach out for guidance.
More information about alcohol abuse and treatment can be found here: Step One: Treatment for Alcohol Addiction