October 2, 2023

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Alcoholism and Alcohol Use Disorder are terms that are often used interchangeably to describe a chronic and progressive condition characterized by excessive alcohol consumption and persistent interpersonal and psychological problems. However, there is a distinction between alcoholism and alcohol use disorder. While alcoholism refers to a severe form of alcohol addiction, alcohol use disorder encompasses a broader range of alcohol-related problems, from binge drinking to alcohol dependency. This article provides an in-depth understanding of alcohol use disorder and its various dimensions.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence, is a condition where an individual’s consumption of alcohol becomes uncontrollable, leading to adverse physical, psychological, and social consequences. Alcohol use disorder, on the other hand, is a less severe form of alcoholism characterized by various forms of problematic drinking, which may or may not lead to addiction. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), alcohol use disorder is a problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to significant impairment or distress, manifested by at least two of the following:

  • Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  • There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol, or recover from its effects.
  • Craving, or a strong desire to use alcohol.
  • Recurrent alcohol use resulting in failure to fulfill role obligations at work, school, or home.
  • Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol.
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use.
  • Recurrent alcohol use in situations where it is physically hazardous.
  • Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol.

Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder is a multifaceted condition that affects people differently. Some users may be more prone to becoming addicted due to a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Others may become addicted after prolonged or chronic use, leading to physical dependence. Despite these differences, some common features of alcohol use disorder include:

1. Physical Dependence

Alcohol use disorder can cause physical dependence in many users, leading to withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is stopped. Withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol use disorder include tremors, sweating, agitation, anxiety, and sometimes seizures, and hallucinations.

2. Tolerance

Alcohol use disorder can cause tolerance, which means that a person needs more alcohol to achieve the same effects. As tolerance increases, users may experience more significant impairments in cognitive and physical functioning, which can lead to further alcohol consumption.

3. Co-occurring Disorders

People with alcohol use disorder may have co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder. These disorders can make it challenging for individuals to recover from alcohol use disorder, as they may use alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Alcohol Use Disorder FAQs

  1. How can I know if I have alcohol use disorder?
  2. You can take an alcohol use disorder quiz, which can help you determine if you have any symptoms of the condition. The quiz may also help to identify how severe your condition is.

  3. What are the CAGE questions for alcohol use?
  4. The CAGE questions are a simple screening tool for alcohol use disorder. The questions are as follows:

    • Have you ever felt the need to cut down on your drinking?
    • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
    • Have you ever felt guilty about drinking?
    • Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover (Eye-opener)?
  5. What are the warning signs of alcoholism and alcohol use disorder?
  6. The warning signs of alcoholism and alcohol use disorder include:

    • Drinking alone or in secret
    • Hiding alcohol around the house or workplace
    • Losing interest in activities that were previously enjoyable
    • Drinking despite the negative consequences
    • Relationship problems related to alcohol use
  7. What is Alcoholism?
  8. Alcoholism is a severe form of alcohol use disorder characterized by a physical dependence on alcohol.

  9. What is the Alcohol Dependence Scale (ADS)?
  10. The Alcohol Dependence Scale (ADS) is a standardized test used to measure the severity of alcohol dependence.

Am I an Alcoholic? Test for Alcohol Use Disorder

If you are concerned about your drinking habits, taking a test to screen for alcohol use disorder can be helpful. Based on your score, you can determine whether you should seek professional help. The following quiz can be useful:

  1. How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?
  2. a. Never
    b. Monthly or less
    c. Two to four times a month
    d. Two to three times a week
    e. Four or more times a week

  3. How many drinks containing alcohol in one sitting do you have?
  4. a. One or two
    b. Three or four
    c. Five or six
    d. Seven to nine
    e. Ten or more

  5. How often do you have six or more drinks on one occasion?
  6. a. Never
    b. Less than monthly
    c. Monthly
    d. Weekly
    e. Daily or almost daily

  7. How often do you find that you cannot remember what happened the night before because you had been drinking?
  8. a. Never
    b. Less than monthly
    c. Monthly
    d. Weekly
    e. Daily or almost daily

  9. How often do you fail to do what is normally expected of you because of drinking activities?
  10. a. Never
    b. Less than monthly
    c. Monthly
    d. Weekly
    e. Daily or almost daily

Answer Key:

For each question, assign a score of 0 to 4, based on the following scale:

a=0, b=1, c=2, d=3, e=4

Score Interpretation:

  • A score of 0-7 is considered a low-risk level.
  • A score of 8-15 is considered a medium-risk level.
  • A score of 16 or above indicates a high risk level and suggests a need for immediate intervention.

Find Alcohol Rehab Facilities Near Me

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol use disorder, seeking professional help can be the first step towards recovery. There are numerous resources available, such as rehab facilities, support groups, and counseling services. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a directory of rehab facilities and treatment centers in the United States. Visit their website to locate an alcohol rehab facility near you.


Alcohol use disorder is a significant public health concern that affects millions of people worldwide. Although alcohol use disorder can be challenging to overcome, there are effective treatments that can help users achieve and maintain sobriety. Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of alcohol use disorder are essential for preventing the development of severe health and social problems. If you or someone you know is suffering from alcohol use disorder, seek professional help immediately.


  1. American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2018). Overview of alcohol consumption.
  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2018). Understanding alcohol use disorder.
  4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021). Alcohol use disorder.
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2021). Find treatment.
  7. American Addiction Centers. (2021). Alcohol addiction treatment.
  8. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2018). Treatment for alcohol problems: Finding and getting help.

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