Alcohol has always been a big part of human history, and of everyday American lives. It is usually present in social gatherings and celebrations, and many use it as a way to unwind at the end of the day. In limited amounts, it may even have some mild health benefits for certain people.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, moderate drinking is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. But how much is too much? When can we say if someone already has a problem?

Alcoholism vs. Alcohol Use Disorder

The term “Alcoholism” is a long-standing and commonly used term, but it is subjective. On the other hand, the term “Alcohol Use Disorder” has a specific medical definition. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines Alcohol Use Disorder as a chronic relapsing brain disease that involves compulsive alcohol use, alcohol abuse, and a negative emotional state when not using.

They estimated 16 million people in the United States have AUD. Approximately 6.2 percent or 15.1 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older had AUD in 2015. This includes 9.8 million men and 5.3 million women. Adolescents can be diagnosed with AUD as well, and in 2015, an estimated 623,000 adolescents ages 12–17 had AUD.

Individuals to be diagnosed with Alcohol Use Disorder must meet the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Under the current version of the DSM-5, anyone meeting any two of the 11 criteria during the same 12-month period receives a diagnosis of AUD. The number of criteria is the basis of the severity of AUD—mild, moderate, or severe.

Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder

Here are some questions to ask provided by the NIAAA to assess whether you or your loved one may have AUD: In the previous year, have you?

  • 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?

On the off chance that you have one or more of these symptoms, your drinking may as of now be a reason for concern. The urgency for change and treatment depends on the number of symptoms you have. A health care provider can give a formal assessment of your symptoms to see if AUD is present.

No matter how severe the AUD may seem, most people can recover through treatment. Unfortunately, less than 10 percent of diagnosed individuals receive any treatment.

Crying for Help

Getting help by receiving treatment can improve an individual’s chances of success in overcoming Alcohol Use Disorder. The reason to seek help, no matter what the term is used, is that a person’s life, physical and/or mental health, family, friends, loved ones are being damaged by drinking-problem, or a job is being affected or have problems with the law.

A person in the clutches of alcohol addiction can no longer seem to control and enjoy their drinking. Sometimes they can control it, sometimes not. At other times they can enjoy it, but they seem unable to stop drinking at a safe point, and they can’t ever seem to consistently manage both on controlling and enjoying alcohol at the same time any longer.

Most try and fail repeatedly in one way after another to get back in control, but slowly and surely the alcohol has taken over control of the brain, the body, and the human spirit, and these people and their families are suffering. Some give up hope. Many thousands die.

These folks may not yet be completely ready to call themselves an “alcoholic” yet, but they know that they have a problem, or else someone that loves them or employs them, knows they have a problem. Or there may be a medical or a legal problem that prompts them to seek help.

Call us today at (760) 780-1237, and at First Step Recovery Center, and we can evaluate you or your loved one for problems with alcohol and/or drugs of any kind, both legal and illegal. We will help you find the right treatment that works best for you, and help you take the First Step to your Recovery.

For more information about alcoholism and alcohol use disorder, you may visit the United States National Institute of Health on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.