Alcohol Use Disorder Criteria

What is an alcohol use disorder criteria?

One of the most common and difficult to diagnose medical conditions for Americans today is alcohol use disorder. So, what is an alcohol use disorder criteria?

Since drinking is so common among adults, it can sometimes be difficult to tell how much is too much, even to the point the mild to severe health risk make themselves present. However, if left untreated, alcohol abuse can lead to very serious health risks. As many as one out of every twelve Americans identify as alcoholics, however, alcohol use disorder can also encompass substance abuse that does not qualify as full alcoholism but still poses serious health risks.

To help understand the difference between healthy alcohol consumption and chronic abuse, understanding the specific definition of the disorder is necessary. Spend some time looking at the list of alcohol use disorder criteria below to see if you fit any of the descriptions.

Alcohol use disorder criteria list

1. Inability to use in moderation

Those experiencing alcohol dependence have a tendency to drink more than they intended to and for longer periods of time. Alcohol’s ability to lower the drinker’s inhibitions often makes it hard to stop once they get going.

2. Unsuccessful attempts to quit

Whether the drinker has actually made an effort to quit through practical means or just expressed a desire to stop, unsuccessful attempts can be a sign of the inability to quit.

3. Investing time

Addiction in all its forms is often measured in its direct impact on the daily routines of the addict. As alcohol continues to consume more and more of a drinker’s time, in drinking, purchase, or hangover recovery, the dependence deepens.

4. Feeling the urge

Addicts are described as experiencing cravings for their substance of choice. These cravings are strong urges to drink that cannot be easily repressed.

5. Missing obligations

Alcohol abuse begins to become more serious as drinkers start failing to fulfill commitments. Whether these missed obligations happen at work or at home, they can lead to long-term consequences that may not be easily reversed.

6. Interpersonal problems

While alcohol is often used in social situations, long-term abuse can mean the slow degradation of interpersonal relationships. A true alcoholic is someone who recognizes this problem but continues to drink regardless.

7. Reducing commitments

As work, home, or interpersonal commitments are continually neglected, some abusers will simply reduce their number of occupational or recreational activities to cope. This goes hand in with criteria 3, as alcohol begins to consume more of the drinker’s time.

8. Unsafe use

Most commonly alcohol abuse can lead to drunk driving, which not only puts the life of the drinker at risk, but that of passengers and pedestrians. However, beyond drunk driving, operating machinery, walking on the road, or any other physically hazardous behavior can become a major risk.

9. Continued use

Despite knowing that alcohol use presents a hazard to the drinkers health and psychological stability, abusers often continue to drink regardless.

10. Developing a tolerance

As the body gets used to greater and greater quantities of alcohol in its system for longer periods of time, the effects of drinking start to diminish. This can mean lessened effects of a drink, and sometimes the need to drink in greater and greater quantities, which can continue to exacerbate symptoms of abuse.

11. Experiencing withdrawal

Distinct from a hangover, alcohol withdrawal comes with a long list of unpleasant symptoms including shakiness, sweating, loss of appetite, nausea, restlessness, fast heart rate, anxiety, disorientation, and seizures. These symptoms can occur from two hours to four days after the most recent drink.

Getting help

Now that we understand the alcohol use disorder criteria list it's important to know how to get help. It is not uncommon to experience one or more of these symptoms while still maintaining an overall healthy relationship with alcohol.

However, if you or someone you know begins to exhibit more than a few of the symptoms listed above, seeking help from a doctor or support group is recommended. Because denial is common among alcohol abusers, it may not be easy to address the problem directly. Often, an invitation from multiple friends and loved ones is required to get the message across effectively.

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Last Reviewed:
August 23, 2017
Last Updated:
October 12, 2017