URL of this page: https://medlineplus.gov/alcoholusedisorderaud.html

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Also called: Alcohol Abuse, Alcohol dependence, Alcoholism

Summary

What is alcohol use disorder (AUD)?

For most adults, moderate alcohol use is probably not harmful. However, about 18 million adult Americans have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). This means that their drinking causes distress and harm. AUD can range from mild to severe, depending on the symptoms. Severe AUD is sometimes called alcoholism or alcohol dependence.

AUD is a disease that causes

  • Craving - a strong need to drink
  • Loss of control - not being able to stop drinking once you've started
  • Negative emotional state - feeling anxious and irritable when you are not drinking

What is binge drinking?

Binge drinking is drinking so much at once that your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is 0.08% or more. For a man, this usually happens after having 5 or more drinks within a few hours. For a woman, it is after about 4 or more drinks within a few hours. Not everyone who binge drinks has an AUD, but they are at higher risk for getting one.

What are the dangers of too much alcohol?

Too much alcohol is dangerous. Heavy drinking can increase the risk of certain cancers. It may lead to liver diseases, such as fatty liver disease and cirrhosis. It can also cause damage to the brain and other organs. Drinking during pregnancy can harm your baby. Alcohol also increases the risk of death from car crashes, injuries, homicide, and suicide.

How do I know if I have an alcohol use disorder (AUD)?

You may have an AUD if you can answer yes to two or more of these questions:

In the past year, have you

  • Ended up drinking more or for a longer time than you had planned to?
  • Wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn't?
  • Spent a lot of your time drinking or recovering from drinking?
  • Felt a strong need to drink?
  • Found that drinking - or being sick from drinking - often interfered with your family life, job, or school?
  • Kept drinking even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  • Given up or cut back on activities that you enjoyed just so you could drink?
  • Gotten into dangerous situations while drinking or after drinking? Some examples are driving drunk and having unsafe sex.
  • Kept drinking even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious? Or when it was adding to another health problem?
  • Had to drink more and more to feel the effects of the alcohol?
  • Had withdrawal symptoms when the alcohol was wearing off? They include trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, and sweating. In severe cases, you could have a fever, seizures, or hallucinations.

If you have any of these symptoms, your drinking may already be a cause for concern. The more symptoms you have, the more serious the problem is.

What should I do if I think that I might have an alcohol use disorder (AUD)?

If you think you might have an AUD, see your health care provider for an evaluation. Your provider can help make a treatment plan, prescribe medicines, and if needed, give you treatment referrals.

NIH: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

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